Random Essays

on Economic Development

 

 

Catholic Economic and Organizational Philosophy

As a Blueprint for Sustainable Growth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2004 by Louis Zdunich

louisdejolietpublishing.com

Printed in USA

 

 

 

Notes to Second Edition, 2014:

 

            Out of a desire to improve the writing-style employed in the first edition, characterized by a kind of choppiness also lamentably found in my Integral Catholicism, which I likewise revised this year, I have undertaken a new edition of Random Essays as well: employing the same editing-method as in the latter case, putting significant changes of thought or opinion—arising out of seismic social and economic, moral and political shifts of the past ten years—into brackets with the date-of-entry included. Likewise as well, you will find this revision to be ongoing over the next few weeks (from November 17, 2014): all the time I have available to me to accomplish a rather large task. Likewise also following the method of the 2014 edition of Integral Catholicism, I have taken the novel step of revising the preface as well, as it suffered just as greatly from the same stylistic drawbacks as did the book itself. Finally, I have tried to remove all instances of an overriding propensity to "beat a dead horse", going to extremes in expressing the rejection of some idea. That which hardly makes good reading by any means.

 

 

Preface

 

 

Effective economic and organizational principles, rather than being contained within brave and sweeping programs, ideologies and agendas, are quite-the-contrary deeply-rooted in traditions, the nebulae of indigenous culture, ties of kinship and friendship: being practical realities which in most respects have little about them of pure theory, let alone of conquest or crusade. The valid preoccupations of academia and of commercial and political leadership being necessarily concomitant and subservient to this organic amalgam of human interrelationships: and hardly aggressively formative, let alone destructive, to it. While the unique sovereignty of this integrated socioeconomic womb, when allowed full scope, is veritably immune to that modern bureaucratic sickness called the welfare state: instead tending naturally and almost unconsciously toward the fullest possible budding of the prolific multipliers of human capital. This view of organization, traditional to humanity as a whole, was baptized and adopted in its entirety into Catholic social teaching, and indeed added-to in depth and raised to new spiritual heights in Christ’s doctrine of the vine and the branches, of His Mystical Body. While any attempt to bypass this native florid human organizational interweave is ultimately to invest in budding disasters of epic proportions, this eminently-Catholic approach to economic development tending by contrast not only toward the conservation and productive utilization of resources but also toward the most complete freedom of agency of the human person. The central Catholic personality-enabling organizational principle of distributism being pivotal throughout, together with a closely-associated championing of an intact private property as being nonetheless and in many ways essentially “social” in its definition and character, being entirely specific to time and place, spelled out in marvelous detail amid the “customs and usages” of peoples throughout history.

Thus aspired to here, in these various papers and essays, is the exposition of a closely-integrated universal perspective each concrete example of which however tends to be perfectly unique in practical terms, proffering to the reader, in another departure from today’s typical scholarly fare, less hidebound analysis than food for reflection: that old and almost-lost art namely which requires the mobilization of one’s entire personality. Today's detached and impersonal methods being supplanted by existential examples from modern and historical organizational life upon whose surfaces light is cast to reveal to the discerning that human social texture which Catholic organizational philosophy most values, and which it brings to fullest fruition, indeed redeems: which is however not to say that it was necessarily evil or wicked beforehand. The age-old Catholic distributism accurately evaluating and coordinating with consummate efficiency the inputs of each reciprocating element of an economy/society: mostly-good-things in the first place, which the graces of the Sacraments—and the insights of Catholic thought—lift to new levels, ultimately partaking of the very social graces of the Angelic Choir. Thus the sentiment here is typically and decidedly of going from good to better and not from bad to good: even as sin intrudes its ugly head even into the best of scenarios, Catholic to the core. This methodology, like its subject-matter, self-modifying too, according to peculiarities of time and place, containing an innate flexibility which hopefully mirrors that of nature itself, so that here is expounded an approach at one and the same time living, vigorous, individualistic as well as supernatural, in a human/spiritual agency which is most missing in the modern concept of political liberty, which tends to look upon freedom as a mere gusty force of nature, and little more.

The political and economic crisis of today is held here to have been several centuries in the making: evolving out of a rapid exploitation of the globe’s raw materials, human and physical, a frenzy mobilized in the meter of ill-tested Reformer confessional categoricals, prematurely chiseled in stone: in radical departures forthwith tried out on an earth full of fragile places and people. This utilitarian approach destined to become progressively dehumanized, finally indeed devolving into that polar-opposite of the Catholic approach, a veritable human experimentation which decried in these pages, within an ideological prepossession ever looking for more-fundamental realms to restructure and reform. This whole mindset being perverse in aim and method alike, and redundantly lacking in developmental soundness, being based on a rejection of the earth and of human life as God created it, being vaguely driven by a Reformation theological worldview that was in many ways retreated-from almost from the death of the last Reformer. A mutated form of whose approach nonetheless and in practical terms remains intact to this day in that orientation toward economics and all of life, especially here in the United States, which follows quite naturally from the Reformer “Faith Without Works” paradigm. A “laissez faire”, essentially-a-moral and philistine notional offspring—whose bald cynicisms the Reformers themselves would have rejected out-of-hand—this outlook has nonetheless and for the greater part of four centuries largely filled the twin sails of polity and commerce of this great “social laboratory”: this in a gathering historical crescendo of unsparing, ongoing experimentation and all-invasive, all-inclusive “reform”. The whole massive, time-lengthy phenomenon being perfectly understandable however when place in its rightful if seldom-discussed context: namely of the directive power of a Jewish global-finance secretive, secular-messianic and futuristic to the core.

Of course the U.S. would attain uncontested global pre-eminence under the impetus of such “no holds barred” enablers, practical and methodological, in which the crusade is not really toward a specific end, but rather becomes an ongoing, all-consuming end in itself. While this country would also unavoidably have much to suffer under all the bitter/sweet consequences of that ascendancy, in terms spiritual as well as economic and infrastructural, in the ironclad, all-points imposition of acerbic or antiseptic theory over all the sweet realities of life: those particularities namely which are the proper subject-matter of the Catholic approach. The tender and solicitous Gospel-Catholic "Way" being the very polar-opposite of a tent-revival “Americanism” cast in socioeconomic terms, indeed a veritable force-of-nature that sweeps all before it, to weigh costs only afterward. Actually nothing that new, being remarkably like other fatalisms and determinisms of other historical times, with hoarse claims of a kind of dialectical inevitability finding close-cousin not only in an all-directive Jewish secular-messianism but in the closely-related Calvinist doctrine of Predestination, the fanatical anti-matter doctrine of the Albigensians, with these too oddly akin to that of the Hindu doctrine of the Untouchables as well.        

            Quite the contrary is the approach offered here one which little resembles any such abstract, paradigmatic template into which to fit epic-heroic, inhuman and pre-conceived ideas: rather being based upon a fundamental confidence in the noted congenitally mild, fragile and reasonable institutions of humanity, and creative potentialities of individual human minds. Harbors and covens for the notional likes of Galilean fishermen, rather than for ideologues, social nihilists and rapacious neo-con privateers. The human person being that which Catholic social teaching alone succeeds in bringing to a great, permanent, and ultimately supernatural mooring place: men and women who possess marvelous and unfathomable hearts and thought-processes, being possessors of human personalities modeled after Trinitarian Prototypes in celestial realms. Hardly do we, then, seek studiously to pick apart or experiment-upon—as in modern corporate/academia’s obsession with behavioral analysis—let alone to regiment and control—this singular treasure of society: this human person who is both its creative genius and final product. As well as the fountainhead of all true economic development.     

            Thus too not to be surprised at is the absence here of anything like the academically much-made-over Napoleonic/French-Revolutionary “rule of the technocrat”, with a central contention in these pages being that the place of the educated is rather to humbly and reverently serve the human person, his neighbor and countryman, not to rule over him, let alone be served by him. His privileges, his very knowledge, having typically come to him by way of the cradle of many supporting, need-anticipating institutions: these created and supported from out of the hopes and labors of the humble. New star-trek-like neo-con visions of an eventual virtual dispensing with the common man, except as a chattel slave, being doomed to fatal collision with a deeper and divinely-provident reality; the expert or intellectual himself hardly being equipped to supplant the body-politic’s thinking, governing, life-guarding mind. That incalculable reality rather dwelling in sublime realms far above any think-tank, planning commission or university department: that sun from which indeed and in a sense they draw their very light. Whose inner drives and aspirations I call true organization and development: the subject of this book.

            My bibliography for this composite work is considerable, although it is contained only in the footnotes themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Property as Socially Defined

 

 Partly based on a Law Review Article by Raymond Cooper and Teige O’Donovan entitled, “Covent Garden: A Model for Protection of Special Character?” Journal of Planning and Environmental Law, 12 1998 1110-1120.

 

Described here is an understanding of real property that is “social” or “socially arbitrated” rather than absolute in character. Actually only a variant of the traditional Western understanding of real ownership, in all essentials it goes back much further in time than American law in that regard, the much-praised "sole and despotic" ownership of our own courts being indeed a legal novelty first conceived in England by the celebrated William Blackstone in the late eighteenth century, but whose spirit was never really wholeheartedly endorsed by Englishmen. Nor in subsequent times was it incorporated into their legal philosophy to the same degree that it has been here. Plainly, the mere tacking of the word “social” onto the word “property” tells us little—while what is yet more plain is that land and its structures should be regarded after a different sense entirely from mere “movables”: real estate, because it tends to have organizational and wealth-creative facets fundamental to society, obviously needing to be both used and construed “in a socially-beneficial way”.

In point of fact an adequate assessment of this kind of full, robust, “social” ownership, something actually perfectly distinct from “socialism”, takes us back to the thirteenth century and before: so that here we find a somewhat different perspective as to the use and meaning of the word “progress” as well. Real progress and the correct understanding of real property being inseparable companions: together in large part marking out dividing lines between nations great, near-great or abysmally-backward. For the illiterate Medieval peasant, living in realms far from the cry of today’s legal wordsmiths, yet had a more thorough grasp of the true meaning of property than do any of the latter: a main foundation stone of such a deep understanding being indeed a certain kinship with materiality itself, of a sort which by nature draws us into a close association and reciprocity with other persons, while being diametrically opposed to their radical exclusion. The sharing indeed of both freedoms and the boons of commonweal being realities which in a sense antedate and under-gird constitutions, and of which the latter are a sort of final expression: while ultimately and conversely this same fundamental, institution-building participation in the things around him was, in spite of a growing materialism, to become a progressively-lesser part of the self-definition of Western man. This kind of ruddy existentialism being the first casualty in the decay of older forms of property law: man finding himself today not at some zenith-of-possession but rather at the tail end of a centuries-long erosion in an original, Eden-initiated, “Franciscan” brotherhood with other creatures rational and  irrational, human and angelic. A poiesis, a unity on a plane which abstracts entirely from any exclusions of deeds of sale. A sort of possession deeply akin to a Pauline “owning nothing yet possessing all things”: that which Christian theologians recognize as having first been ruptured with Original Sin. A many-dimensional catastrophe to whose worst consequences a morally-and-conceptually fragile mankind continually threatens a stumbling return.

Of course these are matters of degree, and we are not all called to be Franciscan friars, yet it remains true that at the deepest level it is with respect to man’s moral condition that the tradition Western legal patrimony properly comes into its own: having as it were institutionalized man’s redemption from a many-sided socio-material erosion of which the decay of property is only one part. So that all the pikes and stakes in the aggregate “bundle of sticks” of Western—nay human—legal and constitutional rights and privileges receive their highest inspiration—and sturdiest binding together—from out of the triumph of the Cross. Forming a stockade of divinely-bestowed practical blessings that however and in the next breath must be acknowledged as being too broad and generic to be significantly confined to the baptized. Since such a patrimony—of which ownership forms an integral part—is something upon which all human self-realization and self-definition greatly depend, with the need for a certain well-articulated universality of such boons being definitive to a race which must work out its common fortune in materially-arbitrated, place-specific mutual efforts and arrangements, these in the usual event of great counterbalanced complexity. So that we necessarily draw others with us in our accessions to such boons, while binding them further with such loving ties in the direction of the “unity of Faith”, as by a natural process of a routine or pedestrian evangelization. While if such a witness fail, then that of words is mere “tinkling brass”. Whereas opposing approaches can by contrast only represent a nihilistic loss of social memory fatal in its consequences to mankind, alike in the aggregate and in personal spiritual terms: that catastrophe namely which characterizes today’s extractive, elite-oriented, treacherously-unstable world order and economy.

Because of their universal centrality of importance, such elemental institutions as property have always formed the unique concern of the Roman pontiffs, while not at all surprisingly even such now-Protestant nations as England tend to some degree to abide by the age-old Catholic papal teachings on such critical human matters, having escaped much of the influence of the social excisions of Calvinism. That creed whose most radical departures were largely transferred, root and branch, to the American Colonies: notably in attitude and at to significant degrees in practice as well. A view of law and society shown by history and within genuine Anglo-Saxon institutions to have decisively penetrated between the "bone and marrow" of complex and consequential issues, in view of which tradition it comes as no surprise that in mid-nineteenth century English courts (Tulk vs. Mohany, 1847) would confirm a form of “covenant” ownership which would at least partially embody earlier “social” forms, surmounting to a degree the potent influence of that William Blackstone of several generations already past.

As might be gathered property is a subtle and complex reality, indeed after the manner of the interwoven tissues of the human body, the exchanges of the biosphere, the contrapuntal of galactic gravitation, lending itself little to blunt extremes, ultimately needing the counterbalancing influence of sound doctrine to keep it alive and well. Real ownership thus for instance having been dealt a grave blow in the Congregational covenant bodies of early Puritan and “Great Awakening” New England: these inevitably if gradualistically introducing a veritable unnatural collectivism into both religion and law, with the authority of the group having been claimed as superior to that of any personal figure, in a Renaissance/Reformation legacy which however instead of uniting men would rather ironically place barriers between them. While instead of enabling a relationship with material things it would grossly inhibit same as well, among other things ultimately interposing between man and his property the rule-by-decree of the American zoning and variance board. The new emphasis on the group actually having its source in a Renaissance recrudescence of ancient Greek political ideas, these in important ways far-more-radical than the republican traditions of Rome: indeed a perfectly-foreign cultural catalyst brought westward by Ottoman-fleeing Byzantines which likewise helped bring about some of the equivocations of the failed Catholic councils of Florence and Constance; even as the divinely-instituted personal authority of pope and bishop alike once having been denied, the individual person would inevitably become defenseless before “councils” of every sort. Freedoms being radically individual in their fundamental nature—and more-discoverable in those vital reciprocities native to ordinary, usually-two-party dealings of men—whether with persons, places or things. This rather than primarily in the intermediary involvement of third or thirtieth actors or elements.

It is in collectivist extremes, then, that the delicate balance which is meant to inform things like property law is especially vitiated, since the deeper purpose of society, no matter how “social” it might become, is actually to cast into bold definition the vital agencies of the human personality, releasing him from the gross constraints of primitive survival, thereby allowing him to develop according to his own freer and more-unique terms. Indeed anticipating that “life of the soul” which will be the activity of the blessed in Heaven, which will be radically-volitional in nature, within that ultimate magma of divine freedom which is the will of God. An agency, a potency which must be begun here on earth if it is every to attain to such a maturity in the hereafter. After which considerations it is seen to be counterproductive to impose upon man some all-encompassing, gratuitously-invasive, supposedly-sacrosanct “rule of the group”, which can easily-enough be manipulated into some rule of a dictator or demagogue, as in Ancient Greece so often indeed ensued. So that it is in achieving this marvelous reality of political liberty: this counterbalancing of an innately-individual freedom, on the one hand, and that mechanism which guarantees it, namely collectively-arrived-at administration of law, on the other, that genuine legitimacy or polity is attained. (Note of November 17, 2014: I added the words "administration of" in this new edition in order to emphasis that law isn't legitimately something of man's creation, but comes from solely God, with all valid human law being based upon the law of God in some way. This is a subject exhaustively elucidated by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Treatise on Law in the Summa Theologica, a tome in which he draws on every major figure in the legal/intellectual history of both East and West). Required however and above all is that we not become engrossed in the mere instrument—fascinatingly harmonized though it might be—to the detriment of that for whose achievement it was designed: man in his highest self-definition being the paramount value, the ultimate “product” of society, so that it follows for one thing that men are not at all meant to be organized into faceless, generic groups or constituencies, like purely-artificial ancient Greek political subdivisions envisioned in Plato's Republic. This penchant of the ancient Greeks to see things in mass-group terms having indeed frequently issued in violent confrontations between destabilizing factions of “Reds” and “Whites” which took many lives. (Note of new edition: I haven't been able to find relevant material on the internet, and no longer have access to the book in which these references were found, to ascertain whether these spectator-sports-loyalty-motivated colors were red and white or red and blue.) 

True organization instead readily coordinates individual personal inspirations, contributions and peculiarities: so that within its confines freedom is the ordinary human condition, not the extraordinary or privileged, as it is here so commonly thought to be: liberty somehow regarded as ever needing heroic, indeed sanguinary deeds toward its achievement. Individualisms in truly-free societies being so marvelously construed as not to overstep others, nor wreak havoc in what is not one’s own: oversteps endemic to today's counterfeit corporate/official/academic sponsored "diversity", somehow always "down in your face", bent on trespasses and invasions of every sort.

Obviously this sensitive mechanism of the mutual-recognition of rights and duties is a goal that although ordinary or natural to man is nonetheless arduous, if not heroic, of practical, organized attainment: a pearl-of-great-price all-its-own, one which once having been discovered and expressed within the inimitable dialect of each people admits of no abandonment. Noted marvelous qualities comprising much of the concrete, legally-articulated reality of civilization within any society, embodying as well the very personality of the nation, something which, in close-kinship with the human soul, in meant to never die. While the gradual or wholesale abandonment of such imponderable treasures represents both the death of the nation and the rise of a creeping or precipitant barbarity: there being in this sense no such thing as a post-Christian era, but rather only the dark and giddy void, that into which we are now so evidently falling. And finally, the universally-adoptable Catholic understanding of property—on whose side is the legacy of mostly-unremembered Medieval centuries—surmounts all else in terms of sublimity of formative impact in resembling the very Blessed Sacrament itself: this later being intimately-private in character at the same time that it pulls the recipient into the vigorous union of the socio-spiritual tissues and tendons of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church: that which is in turn the ineffable heavenly model of critical common-good reciprocities of human society as a whole.

During earlier times this human/spiritual interweave, of which property law was an integral part, was mainly formulated and preserved in the issuing of charters of recognition at various levels: these being mutually agreed upon by the parties themselves, in tandem enablements of every kind. Bodies in a very real sense formulating their own self-definition as well: that which always needs the objectification, the triangulation as it were, of other persons and things with whom one is closely engaged. So here too in this elemental instrument of the charter or contract the dealing of man with man is paramount, in a system of subtle, sensitive and active mutual legal and practical acceptation whose decay is much of the story of the erosion of Western law and civic form during the past several centuries. So that socially-defined property as it exists today necessarily comes to us in tokens that are a shadow of things once dynamic and alive, as we limply allow impersonal “privatized” entities to “do for us” what is better done by ourselves.

Rights thus maintained have come to us from out of a Medieval perpetuity originally inherited from the social memory of a much earlier tribal moot, and even from ancient Roman custom and law, there being always in legitimate law this sense of something passed down: and never at all of some new and supposedly-bright idea. While within these older system of mutual recognizance departures from age-old rights are instantly condemned, and dictatorial or irresponsible moves by individuals of any rank are especially self-evident: setting off culprit-indicting alarm-bells of all kinds. So that it follows that it is the often subliminal, evolutionary machinations of groups, which easily fall under the sway of unaccountable elements of power, that are most to be feared with respect to any undermining of immemorial rights: this far more than the tyranny of any one or several identifiable individual(s). Something which has been amply demonstrated throughout history as well as today in the Bush White House: where all accountability vanishes within its ranging halls and subterranean stairways. (2014 note: Obama is just as bad in all these regards). Democracy and responsibility alike having indeed been voted away in a dishonorable, influence-pandering Congressional group-grant of essentially absolute power to a marginally-elected President: a concession by an assembly which blank-facedly bestowed on this sardonic dictator prerogatives unprecedented even in wartime, with these enormous abuses however only throwing into unique relief a modern form of government which easily devolves and deteriorates in such ways. Which often and even routinely rules in a phantom manner, with a standard grave lack of accountability, or as noted above by a candid or covert kind of decree.

By contrast, our authoritative forebears—holders of positions which combined both private and public realms in their own persons—possessed the most constitutionally-limited forms of authority: a constitutionality woven into the very way things were done, one in reality limited only by those boundaries on perfection which are inherent to our mortal state. One in which private interest was uniquely co-identified with public liberty, with leaders routinely acting as permanent or ad hoc inspectors and confirmers of charters (of ownership, civic function, etc.) reciprocally agreed to by those townsmen or villein farmers whose rights and duties were thus enumerated and maintained. Those of the lord or leader involved being likewise reciprocally confirmed within the same contract, with such arrangements indeed being the only practical, historical polar-opposite to tyranny, as well as to socialism, capitalism and other such truly-radical forms, the names of which today are carelessly applied to structures with a completely different inspiration. The older system thus rather finding government and the specificities of institutions like property firmly in the tandem grips of both noblemen and popular civic/industrial entities, this within mutually-agreed arrangements confirmed from both below and above: comprising a loose-knit system whereby alone the popular will could be expressed in a truly-practical and above-board way. While acting as an insuperable warrantee of liberties involved was the universal recognition of the Law of God as the only actual Constitution employed, explaining the era's dearth of such documents, its ignorance even of such a term. The divine legislation being that from which all lesser law takes its form, its spirit, its interpretation, as it is from God, revealing in sacred disclosures, in acting upon individual souls, in our very human nature itself, that we have all notions of right and wrong. Reverence for the individual person, the only vessel for the inestimable treasure of the human soul, as well as the integrity and perpetuity of the whole legal ensemble, being uniquely preserved by the very hereditary vigilance of a Godly, vigorously-responsive, accountable, personalized “rule of law”. Thus described being the central building-block which most embodied the genius of the free Medieval Western European polity, and to varying degrees that of any other truly great system in history: that for which the grace of the Catholic Sacraments and social teachings is the uniquely-consolidating masonry, a potent and even speedy enabler of things that to present generations present the illusion of an impossibility foregone.

Yet in places like England, at least to the time of writing, and even under shadowy remnants of former substantive realities, as partially reestablished in the noted nineteenth-century English court ruling and concretized in arrangements at places like Covent Garden, property law can even today be remarkably free and fair. So that to the date of the cited article the only “arbitration”—the modern legal approximation to the old charter-based mutual-negotiation—to which Covent Garden—a multi-party property—had had to avail itself, was occasioned by the disposing of outlying blocks by its principle lessee, Guardian properties. This owner of several parcels wishing to combine certain areas—and thereby to create a huge A3 commercial unit—in that enlargement of scale namely which is so easily and regularly brought about here—and which often gravely, if not always in openly-evident ways, trespasses practical, elemental personal freedoms and deeper human needs. For which purposes Guardian attempted to circumvent the will of the Trust by obtaining the consent of the Westminster City Council: this despite the Trust's objection. The latter then refused agreement as landlord, whereupon the owner took the dispute to arbitration: which found positively that the Trust's refusal was "reasonable in the context of the scheme" (1116).

Relations between the two once-contending parties have since been amicable: matters having been disposed of in a clean-cut way, with little opportunity for the hostile court demonstrations and maneuvers so common here, often leaving a lingering bitterness as well. Constructive discussions were rather pursued as to future disposition of the properties in question, negotiations aimed at meeting the commercial projections of said owner while continuing to satisfy larger Covent Garden purposes.

The central theme of this essay is the holistic, even sacramental authentic Western concept of real property, for which schemes like Covent Garden are referred to as a partial but significant modern-day manifestation: whether in terms of historic preservation or in other respects equally compelling, such arrangements making possible a broader public good through the preservation of unique forms. These embodying that negotiation and collaboration so vitally necessary to the vigorous pursuit of private goals in a free polity: tandem efforts at the level of land and its appurtenances invariably being found to affect in the most practical, concrete way both civic freedom and the public good. Ownership being thereby adapted alike to deeper as well as more-immediate needs of individual men: that which after all forms its only legitimate purpose. This in turn lending support to the contention of many that there is much we might learn from English and European legal procedure and philosophy, the driver of systems that promote a more universal, sustainable and popularly-beneficial embodiment of these values, and that with remarkable faithfulness still to a degree embody as well the practical Christian legacy. Aims which can only realistically be accomplished by way of jointly-articulated, painstaking procedures, invariably with roots in a legally-vigorous Medieval past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Croatian Jesuits of New Spain

 

Father Fernando Consag, 18th century Jesuit missioner among the scattered tribes of Baja California, was not only an apostle but also an architect and developer, while this planter of rapidly-prospering native settlements on the frontier doubled as well as an explorer and map-maker, being a prime example of the prodigy of Croatian religious zeal put to the service of man. A vigor of a sort however which did not in the least stand in the way of his main task as spiritual father to countless numbers of Indians, with qualities of missioners of his stamp bespeaking vast, unfathomable inner caverns, productive of heroic deeds far different from the emphasis upon incessant materialistic hyper-activity, with little spiritual content or gravity of character, such as would soon-enough loom so large in the American Catholicism more to the north. Even as a trace of this Jesuit’s spiritual solidity and practical intrepidity—partaking of that rare spiritual heroism of those admitted to the (authentic) number of the canonized saints—must nonetheless be found at least on occasion even among the most ordinary of laymen, if their faith is not at length to be proven vain.

The non-Croatian-sounding name “Consag”—in his native tongue actually spelled and pronounced something like Konshak—is explained by way of an expedient commonly adopted by foreign-nationality missionaries, taking oddly-Hispanicized surnames as they often did, in order to escape imperial prohibitions against outsiders in the Spanish Colonies. So that because of this anomaly indubitably-plentiful numbers of Croatians involved in the Spanish Missions of the New World have been fatally obscured for generations-to-come.

            Carrying on an unbroken tradition of clerically-enabled grassroots development that finds its origins in the ecclesiastical burghs of eleventh and twelfth century Europe—these having been self-governing communities built on far reaches of previously-uncultivated fens and forests—Father Fernando moved topsoil cartload by cartload over miles of rocky terrain, desiring that the land might ultimately produce abundant crops. This for Indians in that Baja region of Mexico near-uniformly destitute from time immemorial. Likewise did his Central-European instinct for working with his hands move this friar to construct a retaining wall or dyke of sorts, close to four miles long, to contain the infrequent but heavy deluges common to the region: swift run-offs which had hitherto been wont to uproot much that lay in their path. Torrents now contained to the benefit of newly-planted gardens, vineyards and orchards for both native and European parishioners, in an intelligent expression of love of God and neighbor in the concrete, the here and now. Involving in generous measure the same entrepreneurial qualities so evident in his Medieval forebears, inherent to which is a creative, neighbor-serving spirit which formed one of the very cornerstones of his solid personality.

            A century earlier there had also arrived on the Mission another Croatian Jesuit, the youthful Father Ratkaj: whose enthusiasm in the same New Spain was however cut short after only two years, almost certainly by way of poisoning. For the increasing, richly-deserved popular prestige of such emissaries of Christianity—especially in the early days of evangelization—was ever the source of predictable deadly jealousies among that tiny formidable minority: the native sorcerers and medicine men. Hatreds that issued in a variety of ways (http://www.dalmatia.net/croatia/emmigrants/ratkaj.htm ).

The misconception is common that tribes found in places like the northern mountains of Jalisco or Sonora or the coasts of Baja were all of them sturdy, self-reliant nations, brutally subjugated to Spanish might and intolerance, for little else besides the working of the latter’s mines and ranches. However typically-enough left unsaid are their true conditions before the arrival of the Spanish and their Jesuit and other padres: harsh realities which the latter in particular undertook willingly and compassionately to address. What they had found in fact were native encampments in which tribes like the Tarahumaras and Yakis, who did indeed possess advanced cultures and admirable, highly-functional skills, could be found just across a ridge of mountains from others who were simple cave men with languages of as few as 25 words. Tribesmen who had to be patiently cultivated and cared for if they were ever to attain to any of the advantages of an enlightened and humane way of life. So that by the same token one admittedly-mistaken policy of the Spanish was the opting for the confining of Indians of all sorts, voluntarily at first, into Jesuit-run “Reductions”: the leaving of which was assumed to indicate a rebellious disposition. Allowances obviously being in order for these radical differences between tribes, justly and prudently leaving the more resourceful to their beloved native prairies, mountains and political structures: a recourse that would in equal-but-opposite measure have been unattractive to the truly-primitive. At least aside from those near-inevitable and often-sanguinary rebellions in the first years of tribal conversion: at which time so many missioners gained their martyr’s crowns, victims of a fleeting resurgence of the witch-doctor's long-standing compulsive sway. Interludes from which however such earlier tribesmen usually returned, shamefacedly, after a brief and much-regretted spree, readily exchanging garish, implacable war-paint and the hellish war-whoop for the gentle voices and clement faces, the kind and relenting words and manners of the padres, to which they had in so short a time grown familiarly accustomed, attachments which had stolen upon them unawares. To the accompaniment of candles, altar, incense and all the other sights and sounds of the Sacraments, of Holy Mass.

Yet even in these to-some-cramped circumstances the genuine cultures of the individual tribes were sedulously encouraged and cultivated by the Jesuits, if unavoidably being blended with that of Spain in an entirely unique spectrum of true, healthy and often holy diversity: something perfectly different from the modern perverse counterfeit. And this for the duration of almost three centuries: with the addition of two more if the era after the forty-year-long Jesuit suppression be taken into account. Yet these padres did know how to learn from their mistakes and were rewarded by the Tarahumaras with fine Churches devotedly built for them, when toward the middle of the 18th century these were allowed to return to their sometimes-alpine fastnesses, after some decades spent in the more-confined conditions of their Reduction. 

            It is also true that "Spanish" capitalists would at last virtually enslave some percentage of the Indian population in their mines: these commercial kingpins, actually commonly of some long-time Habsburg-favored Northern-European nationality—and in incalculably-many cases even those "marranos" or crypto-Jews whose exclusion from the Spanish and Portuguese colonies was mostly honored in the breach, and who as always brought with them all the unspoken prerogatives of global financial might. These foreigners of all kinds having by contrast to others more innocently engaged easily invaded the noted trans-Atlantic monopoly, often indeed having been aided to that end by the very Imperial family: that Austrian dynasty which never, except for the last and much-maligned of their "Spanish Habsburg" numbers, really showed itself very attached to genuinely-Spanish interests. This native thralldom having been indirectly encompassed—as are indeed most such instances of exploitation—through an indirect, telescoping, hypocritical set of mechanisms, in that typical capitalistic barbarity which has no need of war paint: in this case as exemplified in the encomiendo system. Supposedly for the “protection” of the Indian but actually as it developed a levying of so much able-bodied labor from each Indian settlement for grueling, health-destroying smelting or subterranean labors. Yet in all this the Habsburgs hardly displayed more greed than did those neighbors-to-the-North who would actually pursue a far-more-cynical policy: one which indeed amounted to the annihilation of peoples and the confiscation of their lands. While such greed and cruelty as was actually found among Spaniards was relentlessly fought against by these missionaries: from the pulpit, by their own tireless example, and with all the influence they could bring to bear on magnates and civil authorities alike. Such efforts also being reinforced, at least in writing, by multiple Spanish Imperial Cedulas.

            But the best witness to the spirit manifested by Father Consag toward the Indians is contained in the words of one of his contemporaries:

     

“Father’s humility was not satisfied by referring to himself in the third person. Regarding that event (his discovery and final mapping and exploration of the gulf of California) he wants what was obviously entirely due to him to be attributed to the docility of the barbarians, as if the Indians that now came to greet him and to guide him were not the same ones who only a short time ago came out to obstruct his travel and if possible to kill him. To win the hearts of men in this way is a type of conquest that only an unarmed missionary can accomplish and that the loud noise and terror of arms cannot achieve. The arms of zeal, meekness, and Christian charity, which are the ones that the empire of Christ was founded upon the propagating (of), are much more powerful.” (Peter M. Dunne, Early Jesuits in Tarahumara. Berkeley: University of California, 1948,  p. 66. Quoted from memorial circular of Fr. Consag published by his Jesuit superior after his death.)

 

            Indeed, Father Consag was one of the most important men in the 18th century New World—one who besides geographically fixing the peninsular nature of Baja California in a definitive way—that which earlier had been guessed-at by the Jesuit Father Kino—also subjected it to its first thorough exploration. His cartography being destined to be relied upon for the next 130 years until 1873 and 1875, when the U.S. Navy finally completed its own survey. But here is another sketch of the man of God:

           

             “(Father Consag and his companion missioner) would go out, each on his separate way on horseback or on foot, without any protection against the unbearable heat of the sun. They would find some (Indians) here and others there, living like beasts in thickets and in caves. The anointment of the Holy Spirit and the gentleness from their hearts which manifested itself on their countenances and in their words prevailed over the uncivilized character of the Indians, until they completely won them over to Jesus Christ.” (Francisco Zevallos, Introduction to the Apostolic Life of Fernando Consag: Explorer of Lower California. Los Angeles: Dawson’s, 1968, p. 55-56.)

 

            So important is Father Consag to the history of the Christianization of the region that 

 

             “to (him) must go the credit of preparing ground in the north (the American state of California) for the further expansion of the missions. Arriving at San Ignacio, the Northern frontier mission in the early 1730’s, his Croatian energy would not allow him to rest or even to proceed less rapidly. When he was not superintending the cultivation of the mission fields or the breeding of his horse and donkeys, he was engaged in instructing and preparing for baptism the natives far and wide around his mission. He baptized, of course, in his own establishment, but also kept an eye on Santa Rosalia de Mulege (further to the north)’. As Consag became ripened and receptive to Lower California’s hard soil and brittle rocks and to the hardships incident to mission activity in so austere an environment, he began to look for other fields to conquer spiritually.” (Peter M. Dunne, S.J., Blackrobes in Lower California. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1952,  p. 375.) 

 

How different is such an example from the “evangelism” of recent Serbian advances of Orthodoxy at the edge of the sword: one that has indeed received the deafeningly-unspoken de facto endorsement of a supposedly-humane “world community”. Serb territorial gains, accompanied by the destruction of Catholic and Muslim birth and other official and ecclesiastical records, and going to such extremes as genetically-motivated mass rapes, being in effect wordlessly ratified by the major powers: together indeed with subterranean attempts to extend these aggressions even further than Serbian arms could ever have done. As in the ceaseless Hague calling-into-question of the mid-1990s Croatian reclamation of sovereign lands in so-called “Krajina”. (Note of November 19, 2014: General Gotovina who commanded the singularly-life-sparing reclamation of Croatian soil would at last be released from his unjust imprisonment, being completely exonerated by the Hague Tribunal, after having been fanatically set-upon and ultimately convicted through labors of the one-time chief-prosecutor Carla del Ponte.) Questionably-legitimate international institutions—increasingly containing odious “privatized” characteristics—once again shamefully taking up the cause of a global bully, as so many times before. (Note of November 19, 2014: Alas, from the time of writing onward major institutions whether of trade, defense treaty or international law would steadily fall under the sway of a USA becoming more and more hip-booted by the day, having shown itself every bit the equal of heinous '90s "Greater Serbia" displays). The Hague and other institutions—depending on the winds of the hour—often eagerly endorsing ever-destabilizing irredentist claims of the most tenuous kind—prime species of a geopolitical conquest-mentality for which the modern State of Israel must of course take dubious pride-of-place. The noted Croatian armed operation, which took place in millennia-long and indisputably-Croatian areas like Lika and Krbava, having obviously been a purely-defensive one than which no more perfect example of the just war can historically be found, countering a long-standing Serbian-Orthodox “missionary work” of a singularly bizarre and unjust character. The whole Serb expansion, in another of these high pitches of irony, having uncanny points of similarity with Late-Medieval and Early-Modern Muslim “jihad” invasions: sons of the Prophet who furthermore actually favored the Serbs historically, using them as their deputies in the enforcement of the will of the Turkish Porte over Catholic Croatians, Bosnians and Herzegovinans. Advantages lavished by the Turks upon religionists found to be remarkably congenial in spirit and method to themselves. All these things remaining true, at a final pitch of irony, even as at the village level Croats and “ethnic Serbs”—these actually quite often "Vlaci" from Walachia, driven in centuries-past before Muslim armies-of-conquest, or Serbs transplanted from other areas during the eighteenth century according to odious Habsburg “divide and rule”—these alleged "mortal enemies" having generally-speaking gotten along very well in the day to day give-and-take of an often-subsistence-level agrarian life. That level namely where one would expect “old wounds” to rub raw and bleed most readily. All this, finally, providing us with a singularly-revealing reference-point as to the externally-brokered nature of this and many-another modern conflict: from Bosnia/Herzegovina to the Sudan to Southeast Asia. So that in such a light all the much-referred-to “complexities” of “Balkan” regional affairs are seen not to be near so unfathomable as previously thought. This brokering-of-war by truly-inscrutable, self-interested international forces—among culturally-and-religiously diverse peoples perfectly helpless against such things—this phenomenon being indeed far-and-away the most significant geo-political phenomenon of our times. That interpretive constant without which modern history makes no sense at all: and the twisting of which reality can indeed be fashioned into a polemical tool-of-choice for modern-day Hitlers and Napoleons of every stripe.

It is easy for many to forget that until the dawn of the twentieth century the vast majority of mankind, if not as primitive as Fr. Consag’s beloved thicket dwellers, have always been illiterate and thus unable to benefit by written works, whether sacred or secular: so that our ancestors profit greatly from lessons taught by the five senses, set to the service of religion. While modern man, by contrast, has experienced little but dismal failure in his attempts to find substitutes in some “purer” or more-sophisticated—or even "loving" but in fact purely emotional—form of religion, let alone one somehow essentially materialistic/militaristic. While we who believe also know—and this from Holy Scripture itself—that “faith is by hearing”, and not immediately by the written word, for one thing witnessing that Christ plainly did not come to earth and hand us a book, and then return thence to Heavenly clouds. Hence a Jesuit laborious shouldering of the burden of the sedulous learning of native languages, since God Himself chooses to use the humbler immediacies of our human nature, often embodied as well in musical and other traditions, to guide us to Himself. Accordingly was the very ancient Temple at Jerusalem full of sacred carvings, powerfully influencing the same impressionable senses: a recourse exemplified perhaps most strikingly in the twin Seraphs above the Holy of Holies, objects far different from the blood-stained idols before which so many among the ancient Jews were known to offer up their own children in lurid rites of infant sacrifice, in an abomination common to the Canaan of Old Testament times. (Note of November 21, 2014: One which, in legalized abortion, has returned to our own era with a vengeance, as if to make up in sheer numbers for more-innocent intervening centuries: this most stunningly not really in grizzly barbarities of forceps and saline solutions but rather in a seldom-mentioned, politic-EWTN-pharmaceutical-sparing but infinitely--more common standard "birth control pill" which refuses attachment of the newly-fertilized ovum to the uterine wall, thus multiplying abortions of the tiny living fetus into billions upon billions of doomed persons, flushed down the toilet unseen. To confront the theology involved: does God perhaps admit these "martyrs" to Heaven, as so often insisted by pro-life Christians, or are they rather fated for a Limbo in which a natural joy is experienced without end, but with no vision of God? While there is the third alternative admitted as I understand by theologians, of Limbo as non-existent—since in this fetus-related form it has no mention in Holy Scripture, the whole subject not even being broached, nor is it apparently an indubitable part of majesterial Church teaching handed down—however with the admission of an instantaneous private judgment in which the disembodied soul, as it were rendered "angelic", is able to make an eternal decision of Heaven or Hell, just as did opposing hosts of St. Michael and Lucifer. I'm afraid that as sanguine as we might wish to be in favor of the best possible outcome for these personally-innocent souls, as personally-comforting as such a happy doctrine might be to our own patent non-interference in modern butcheries involved, there isn't really any theology to support the mass salvation of these biblical "little ones": as if in effected being sent Heavenward by stygian atrocities of modern man, completely bypassing the need for baptism by myriads of souls. Hence intrudes itself upon us another option, namely that St. Thomas Aquinas may indeed have been right in his contention that the soul doesn't join to the body in the womb until some later stage of pregnancy: although one must hasten to add that to kill this kind of purely-naturalistic fetus would just as surely be murder, since it is to terminate this vital preliminary to human life. The homicidal nature of such an act being something which the Angelic Doctor can scarcely be said to deny, as he obviously still condemns abortion at any time or stage, just as the Old and New Testament moral law had always done.) So that it is rather of real and sanguinary idols as Canaan of yore that the Old Testament speaks, and which are the subjects of its vehement condemnation. Thus in the mild and tender spirit of Catholic aestheticism:

 

            “The padres resorted to a number of ways to make the Church the center of Indian social, cultural and religious life. Church buildings were constructed with great care, improving native skill and instilling a sense of pride....Exterior walls were coated with plaster and each Church was equipped with bells, the peal of which, according to Kino…pleased the Indians. 

            “Kino also reported the importance of images and pictures to decorate the interior of the church. Something for which these padres budgeted their accounts carefully to permit the purchase of at least one expensive furnishing or utensil each year. A good portion of the annual budget was spent for candle wax and we are told the Catholic custom of burning candles delighted and impressed the natives. The over-all aim was to instill respect and reverence for the house of God.

            Symbols, too, were used to convert and instruct, the most important being the crucifix. Its central place in Christian worship was instilled long before the meaning of it could be explained. The crucifix images, pictures of holy men and other symbols proved helpful in conveying the Christian message in a graphic and lasting way.” ( Bolten, Herbert, the Rim of Christendom, p. 245.)

 

            As noted it is difficult to know the actual number of Croatians who were involved in the Spanish colonial missions because they often hispanicized their names beyond recognition. Likewise, many of these Hrvati—the nationality as spelled in the Croatian languagewere in the habit of naming their land of origin as the Empire under the pale of which it stood: thus accounting for the many entries of the word "Austrian" on tombstones and in citizenship papers in the United States prior to World War I. So that due to such misleading circumstances—and my own non-access to Spanish Colonial libraries—in order to fill out this picture of Croatian missionaries in the New World I am obliged to leave the realms of Latin America and include a cameo sketch of the missionary activities of Josip Kundek: a cleric who arrived in the United States in 1838.

Serving a vast parish that extended from St. Louis to Pittsburg, Fr. Kundek worked both among the Indians and the early settlers.

 

       “Not only did he strive to save the souls of the numerous (Indians) in the Midwest, but he served as father-confessor to the section’s German and Swiss Catholic immigrants, in whose records, incidentally, he appears as a German and a Swiss cleric. The talents and achievements of Father Kundek were diverse, indeed. Besides being a successful missionary and priest, he was a gifted poet and musician. In 1854, he established the Benedictine Abbey of St. Meinhard, Indiana. He was also instrumental in founding a number of towns in southern Indiana." (Gerald Gilbert Govorchin, Americans from Yugoslavia. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1961,  p. 29-30.)

 

            The activities of Croatians like Father Kundek represent a vast and developmentally-vigorous side of American history, seconded by other Catholic missionaries like the Jesuits Fr. DeSmet, a Belgian, in the conversion of tens of thousands of Indians on the Northwestern frontier. As well as in his valiant but ill-funded and poorly-assisted efforts at native economic development. While to be added to such a heroic list is a certain locally-venerated pioneering Slovenian bishop whose field of labor covered the entirety of the vast North-Central plain. But, alas, these accomplishments receive for the most part only scant recognition here. The name of DeSmet—easily the most important figure on the Western frontier between 1840 and 1870—he without whose trusted presence major treaties with the Indians would have been impossible to finalize—is seldom mentioned in histories of the times. A Jesuit who appears indeed to have been forced to carry on an intermittent rear-guard action even with his own American superiors, and some of his confreres: being confronted by the legacy of a John-Carroll-initiated American Church scarcely evincing fervors of the French and Spanish of centuries before. Being hamstrung in spiritual and material efforts on behalf of his much-loved natives (Carriker, Robert C., The Kalispel People. Phoenix: Indian Tribal Series, 1973. Also: Garraghan, Rev. Gilbert J., S.J., The Jesuits of the Middle United States, in three volumes. New York: America Press, 1938.) While the labors of nation-building Croatians like Father Kundek—and the multitudes of other co-national evangelizers—are generally recorded not at all: missioners whose vital commitment to the cultures and socioeconomic development of native peoples was but one aspect of a Faith truly incarnational in character. Bringing earthward, in their own persons and labors, the tender, constructive and compassionate kingdom of the Son of God. Men who were clerical counterparts to an epic lay enterprise south of the border which left a permanent, living legacy in the huge Indian and Mestizo populations of Latin America: this despite equally-epic frustrations from other quarters. While the heritage of robust-spirited, often marvelously-individualistic Croatians among missionaries—a nationality disproportionately found among continent-discovering navigators and frontiersmen as well—is undoubtedly still evident here and there in the rich cultural potpourri of lands from Cuba to Argentina—where surviving traces are sure to be found of the indefatigable labors, indomitable good humor, affectionate nature and full-throated song of Father Consag and other co-nationals. These blending well with similar elements in the native stock. Traits for which—from Bosnia to Australia to Hawaii—an Island which Croats also did much toward developing—this same Central European people continues to be uniquely noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venice of the Desert

 

 

            A progressive desiccation of the Sonoran Desert is said to be taking place in the Phoenix valley, largely the result of the early twentieth century damming of the Salt River and the creation of Roosevelt Lake: a drying-out that is extremely rapid in terms of a relentless ecological clock. For soil-professionals observe on the desert surface and deep in its soil a disappearance of the many moisture-bearing tributaries that that river once gave birth to in seasonal abundance, with a radical containment of water within the noted Tonto Basin reservoir which doesn’t allow the life-giving substance to spread significantly from there into an already arid lower landscape. A rarification which thus robs the Valley of trees, plants and cacti gradually over time, vitiating a living natural plethora ever ultimately necessary to a sound and sustainable—rather than a "cut and run"—economy. While to make matters worse, the few of these watercourses that still remain are invariably diverted into culverts and storm-sewers at the guarding edge of some development, in the foothills, above the valley floor: this water then being destined mostly to evaporate on its way swiftly downhill, flowing somewhere out of the area on the same non-porous conduits, in that redi-mix city which is nature’s nightmare, but a developer and official alliance’s money-making dream. “Dry creeks” thus being rendered no longer capable of their habitual sinking to subterranean levels: where hidden waters, typically-enough year-round, once secretly hydrated ultra-deep tap-roots of cacti and other desert plants, in a wedding which for millennia produced marvelous fruits of all descriptions, in turn sustaining other life in all its forms. Rather now traversing this part of the desert to little if any positive effect. While even an impressive complex of irrigation canals largely deposit water for the benefit of moisture-gluttonous grass lawns and other likewise resource-devouring plant life: these transplanted from regions with more water and different soil composition. Fussy Easterners thus introducing a foreign sort of hydration as well as destructive botanic aliens to the delicate desert terrain, while even this surface-level irrigation largely evaporates in short order, in the hot, dry sunlight, much of its consequence being found in the Valley’s unnaturally-high humidity levels for such regions. This for residents who feel they must somehow reproduce the Garden State on the desert floor. While because of otherwise profoundly-dry ground conditions plant-life has already died out in many spots, or is unnaturally frail and wilting: sometimes almost without regard to how much it rains. Much-made-over retention basins hardly being up to the task of replacing a moisture-preservation system from out of the cupped hand of God: one which needed not a dime of taxpayer money for its maintenance or construction.

Indeed, an innately-fragile and sensitive transition zone so rich as the Phoenix Valley in terms of vegetation—much of it prodigally food-bearing, under nature’s own accustomed trickle-irrigation—could under such discouragements ultimately devolve into a true desert over time: thus extending the Mojave eastward a couple of hundred miles. The last gusty afterthought of once-giddy profits perhaps blending artfully with blowing sands, rendering the valley bare of plants like the cholla cactus: every bit as lovely and unique as the saguaro and the bearer of a uniquely-delicious, nourishing, regionally-lemon-flavored fruit. One that typically ripens to a burnished green in the shape of a small Bosque pear, or round like a small apple. Being however that very organism which developers root up first, and as thoroughly as if it were some mere toxic weed: no doubt because of deep McMansion-dweller fears of its long, painful spines, in dealings with which, like anything else worth having, one must first learn a healthy dose of respect. While as intimated above adding insult to ecological injury is the fact that such destruction is brought about with the eager cooperation of developers, zoning boards, multi-level transportation officials and many other such persons and bodies: all of whom of course carefully skirt around any responsibility for harmful consequences, but with equal unanimity profit in some way, shape or form. This in their great and sometimes highly-remunerative haste to "develop" an area. Thoughtlessly disregarding, claiming for an excuse the spur of vaunted “market forces”, desert plant life, stream-bed preservation and wildlife escape corridors: these latter designed to place at least a measure of limitation on a parallel and equally-fatal annihilation of desert animal life: literally stopped dead as “road kills” in futile attempts to reach a dwindling habitat, if not dying of thirst or starvation during the same interminable odysseys. All largely because of terrain-dividing, almost-continuous walled cities, here and there complete with habitat-alien watery moats or lakes: an obstacle-course joined by the fenced or even walled roadways to and from and adjacent to same. All together resulting in a wire and water, asphalt and concrete maze which few road-runners or coyotes are clever enough to infiltrate on a daily basis.

            Yet after demanding such sacrifices of mother nature—as always in the name of some land-marketer’s paradise, or some appeal to the reputedly economically-unavoidable, or more lately out of tent-meeting levels of ideological prepossession—the very least we could do is to make the most of it. So that for instance some have recently mused about the idea of transforming some of our irrigation canals into miniature scenic waterways—lined with cyber-cafes, bars, entertainment and other artistic or upbeat businesses and activities. With paths, carefully bounded by railings, hand-paved with artisan-laid stone, perhaps of especially-colorful native varieties. All this instead of these valuable and useful urban water-channels providing a rather-impoverished public space for solitary joggers and dog-walkers: canals which as it stands now are mere fitting counterparts to noted desert-dividing suburban walls and fences, raising similarly-unnatural concrete barriers between inner-city neighborhoods. While from above-suggested beginnings one might conjure up the idea of native-stone steps leading to water’s edge and waiting gondolas, mandolins and moonlight serenades. Indeed, once having learned to thus love and decorate our city and landscape, we might then even be moved to look after its ecological soundness, in modifications which might here and there prove costly and laborious but which could add incalculable viability, perpetuity and native charm to both desert habitat and previous urban-development efforts and accomplishments.

            Of course this all goes against the “urban-grain” of those many in the development community who think that “amenities” are something that comes only with residential lots priced in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that the rest of us, as far as they’re concerned, can just as well gradually sink to a level of discomfort or misery as profound as that of our four-legged desert-dwelling friends: in our less-aggressive little cars dodging sleek new SUVs, in harassed journeys sometimes remarkably like those of our furry cousins, bound for our own increasingly-less-hospitable burrows. Hardly expecting to find at journey’s end any such expensive embellishments: which after all might unpatriotically take the edge off the marketer’s jingle about the latest McMansion Ranch development.

            During a ride in the near north side of the Valley an acquaintance and professor of Architecture and Urban Design pointed out to me in exasperation an intersection the four corners of which all boasted impressive high-rise office and commercial buildings, with this promising start, however and as happens all too often around town, being immediately succeeded by blocks of perfectly incongruous, likewise-thoroughfare-facing, largely-ranch-style single-story residential dwellings. These typically in various stages of open or subtle deterioration. The professor noted that the filling of these intermediate segments of avenue with multi-story residential and commercial structures—having on the ground floor arcades with smaller offices, shops, restaurants and other enterprises—could transform these avenues into vibrant arteries of commercial activity and true generators of wealth. In stages helping remove the cityscape away from the developmentally-sterile, mutually-inseparable “shopping center” and “civic center” motif: but with ample compensation—and even easily-obtainable incentive-nourishing subsidization—to impacted property-owners. Or in my own way of thinking even with the option of a retention by the original owner of a substantial percentage of profit-earning proprietorship, within a transformed real-estate lexicon: properties which would promise to generate many times more income than before, taking newly-constituted previous owners with them on their revenue-earning flights. And with front-money to boot, to tide them over in the meantime. Some such generous and imaginative owner-compensations having been built into the historic sixteenth-century urban-proto-development of Rome under Pope Sixtus V. So that with these and other imaginative ideas, the addition of pocket parks or islands for food vendors or even small local-color orchestras, serenading passers-by, coupled with the retention, basically inviolate, of the existing residential inner neighborhoods, there could be produced an urban corridor worthy of an increasingly world-class city. With incalculable cultural and economic implications for future years to come. Modifications promising to do comparatively little harm to ever-precious private property rights, or ever-valid sentimental attachments: at least when compared to the wholesale demolitions and revamps now so often blank-facedly mandated from so many aloof city halls.

            But this kind of thing does take at least a certain amount of intense and thoughtful, even courageous official involvement, struggling toward a true development that is incorporated into the surrounding urban fabric: one that takes humbler, more-intimate residential surroundings with it on its bolder flights, hardly devouring them in the prevalent contractor/developer and high-dollar substance-abuser construction-worker feeding frenzy, the latter part of a well-connected international fabric all-its-own. A better and innocent form of development that doesn't require most current residents to move away. Else otherwise we end up with glitzy islands in the midst of a ground-zero annihilation of time-ripened surroundings: the biblical patch of new and foreign cloth on an old garment, inevitably producing a visual, psychological and functional “tear”, or even massive hole, in the costly urban-fabric.

But rather is the standard policy of radical discontinuity in prominent redevelopments of the past couple of decades a throwback to the skyscrapers of Frank Lloyd Wright, standing as testimonies, historically almost quaint though they may now be, to a spirit of puritanical rupture with the surrounding American cityscape. That namely which the noted architect despised. Visionary designs deliberately built out of context with unique, inimitable urban complexities, both human and material. Abstractly glorifying the "properties of modern building materials" like glass, steel and concrete: new gods in an arcane architect’s pantheon. Additions-to, but hardly fit substitutes-for, the authentic, perennial, uniquely-hospitable human-architectonic phraseology. Critical to which latter has however always been the development of a dense, humane socioeconomic environment to go with it: since one doesn’t build a city in a world-class way and then allow its loveliest boulevards to witness the ceaseless desperation of the poor and homeless. Nor let alone does one, as a kind of Rosenberg-Germany-like remedy, segregate the less fortunate off in their own separate enclaves, keeping “respectable citizens” isolated from their troubling presences. Rather do the poor and less-than-wealthy define a city at least as much as do the rich, for one thing by their greater numbers, so that it is incumbent upon planning and policy-making—were they to be true to deeper purposes—to labor toward a true and diffusive prosperity and stability in all sectors of society—that which ultimately provides the most complex, sophisticated, enduring and satisfying sorts of “amenities”. These within a picture which retains a substantial scope for the individual family and person to in a sense "fend for themselves": however not like some Horatio Alger demi-hero, elbowing others aside, but rather by way of friendly means and “multipliers” of near-infinite variety and scope. Those things namely that have attracted people to cities from time immemorial. Enablers imbedded within the very socioeconomic, human-familial fabric. Any "progress" which ignores this infrastructure-mediated ordinary-citizen input/agency being ultimately no progress at all: tending in fact toward market and ecological dislocations and abnormalities which gravely minimize and misallocate the benefits of cutting-edge form.

            Hence the old Keynesian standby: rich markets and prosperous societies demand many confident producers and consumers, elements vital indeed to the alleged concerns of neo-con ideologues and land-developers of today. There being required for a true and sustained prosperity multitudes of persons operating at every socioeconomic level with money, talent, initiative and critical uniqueness-of-perspective to spend and invest: indeed within the biblical/Pauline “generous sufficiency”. Else the city become as it were a stockade for thought-dead masses of virtual-prisoners: with expensive housing at its edge for wealthy patrolling “security guards”. Such an economy putting all its eggs in one monolithic nest or basket, “like one big, happy family”: that saying which has become perhaps the ultimate, vaguely-Mafia-flavored sarcasm of our age, usually only heard in the furthest pitches of jest. Such eggs then being murderously consumed by a bevy of raucous blackbirds, whether human or those which mother nature herself sends to roost. Starlings made up among the former of those stock market predators and other profit-extractors who thrive amid a pointedly-job-shrinking economy and product-development alike, often basically gaining chain-letter profits just before indecorously “bailing out”. With an electronic duplication of human skill and activity which is perfectly meaningless after a point, except as so many tollway-collection-machines for the pockets of the mighty. And which constitutes a comprehensive robbery on a metaphysical level un-heard-of before: producing a highly-synthetic urban fabric conspicuous only for its gargantuan, surreal civic plazas, taxpayer-built sports arenas and other neo-con launching-pads-out-of-reality of all kinds.

            Granted, during the past ten years and more the phenomenal expansion of computer and related technologies in the Phoenix area has been a generator of many billions of dollars of wealth, significant portions of which however should have been harnessed to infrastructural improvements for the lasting benefit of all sectors of society, and ultimately to the comprehensive, geographically-diffuse safety and security of the most wealthy as well. This having been quite possible even within quite normal rate of taxation, by sheer volume of levies in turn generating fiscal policies with an enlightened eye to the future benefit of all people. And not just with an eye to the voluminous, a-human appetite of corporate interests.

Foreign to such a vigorous sort of development, then—as alien as the noted cookie-cutter moats and imported vegetation—is an approach to infrastructure concerned with little beyond road construction, or impressive downtown redevelopments which require armies of security forces to keep them only-marginally safe, and that are seldom used to capacity for any length of time. All in violation of far-better ideas which however do not reward corporate and underworld development interests in quite such a lazy-minded, depressing if-outwardly-spectacular way. Rather must a truly-wise redevelopment prioritize the inclusion of substantial lower-class accessible housing, education, training: and above-all legally and bureaucratically-unimpeded business opportunity: less-spectacular macro-enablers being the age-old, truer and more fundamental foundation-stones of the economic progress of cities. And if anyone calls this socialism they are simple stupid or ill-informed. While of course neither do we advocate a now-quite-prevalent neo-con socialism on behalf of the already-obscenely-rich.

            And so if centuries from now contemporary experts puzzle over the parched remains of a once apparently-prosperous culture on the Sonoran Desert—and muse over its gradual or sudden disappearance—much as people now puzzle over the remnants of the Hohokam or the Anasazi, traces of which will still be found in layers beneath these more recent finds—it may well be that poor resource management will be their final diagnosis. Poor management not only of precious watersheds but also of that even-more-precious “capital” of human minds and spirits. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Deeper Sort of Development

 

 

            Carrying with it subtle marks of the deterioration of city life and government—in the midst of an “urban village” totally obsessed with “development”—was an obscure incident at one of the Valley’s parks some months ago: one which involved a friend from the University that used to go there of a Friday morning when he had no classes, to practice with his five-string banjo. One of that stubborn breed, now mostly gone, who still knows and loves the songs of Gene Autry, Tex Ritter and Sons of the Pioneers: while being old enough to be familiar with the special way they used to be sung. So that adding as a final touch the raspingly-beautiful qualities of that noble instrument once brought here from Africa—or some say Ireland—and naturally enough the attention of a nearby group of grade school students was quickly-enough attracted.

Some ten or twelve of these junior citizens in all gathered around the concrete park bench, listening in wonder to songs like “Dear Old Western Skies”, “There’s an Old Trail in My Memory’, “Ride ‘Em Cowboy” and so on. Yet this inner-city idyll, as many might readily grasp, was far too good to be true: being something from out of the Neanderthal, forbidden world of the early-to-mid twentieth century. So that there was very little tribute of startled surprise given the toe-tapping antics of the youthful teacher who had brought these students hither: she who surveyed our minstrel from a distance with a darker and darker brow. For it was written across her professionally-uninhibited features that she knew he was up to something: whether soliciting drugs between songs or some other activity dark and sinister. The damsel could indeed have come over and found out for herself but as anyone at-all familiar with her breed might expect she instead called to the youngsters to break off their engrossment, her voice full of self-assured, ringing tones of authority: obviously considering herself the heroine of the hour. The kids however found it difficult to obey such a command, and one little boy—the grave innocence of early youth written in large letters across his face—expressed his thanks to the singer before leaving, in what for him had obviously been a rare and treasured time.

            There is tremendous confusion, really, over what we mean by the word development:  to some it is a measure of the speed with which farming or virgin desert land is turned into “walled communities” and shopping or industrial malls. While to others within the same general viewpoint it is typically understood in terms of gargantuan civic plazas and other imposing projects, funded by onerous bond issues, these regarded as well-warranted aids toward further construction, job generation, the attraction of corporations to the jurisdictional area. Yet there is a much more genuine, largely-unspoken, humble and human side to development, since the most we can hope to accomplish with mere material forms is to enhance and enable human, moral and motivational things, with parks, sidewalks and road construction being meaningful only to the extent that they harbor true human goals: and being positively detrimental to the extent that they attempt to replace them.

            Thus according to a solid, immemorial linkage live music in venues of common public resort tends to be a promising preliminary to vigorous development: sounds of the sort which proceed from the inner world of the artist, and from out of which as a touchstone emerge positive and creative impulses of every sort for the listener. True development and its locally-definitive creativity seldom being gained from a milieu artificially imposed from without, like the dome of some super-stadium, in alien meters by which musicians regularly play the most standard sorts of cranked-out stuff, ditties typically-enough suggesting the grungy, bearded, chaotic inner universe of a nonetheless stamped-and-approved yesteryear. Virtuosos who are remarkably-often true drug takers or even distributors: like one guy with an impressive handlebar mustache who actually sold the stuff from out of one of the also-curly openings in the front face of his big base fiddle. Obviously a heavily-sanctioned crime with which this very same innocent park-bench picker, a social “outsider” totally unaware but possessed of a critically-needed talent, inducted at the eleventh hour into the little troupe, cheek to jowl with the complicit, could easily and at any time have found himself firmly implicated. Especially considering that hair-trigger, eyes-to-the-voters “justice” of so much of today’s law-enforcement. Closely allied as it is to that strange public eagerness, never before seen in American life—that which immerged close on the heels of the hedonistic bouts of the 60s and 70s—to see the irritatingly-just at last stigmatized as sharing vices common or heinous. To be considered “no better—indeed probably worse—than the rest of us”. The sort of spirit that especially animates such bands, and lends a certain barbaric quality to their music. While often involved are sounds—none of which suggest or stimulate health urban development—that we can hear most-anytime with the press of a button and from the original artist: not from some local-yokel marginal-imitator. The musical underworld such performers often inhabit being of a kind which—to find out how impregnable it really is—you only have to try once or twice to permanently and professionally penetrate—as this very same picker had indeed in times past done.

Modern musiciandom often indeed comprises a veritable piratical secret society, complete with its own obscure array of coded gestures and hand-symbols, no doubt standing up ably to historical forerunners like those dozen or so brotherhoods that once carried the torch of the sanguinary, apocalyptic Taiping Rebellion in mid-nineteenth century China. An analogous social phenomenon having in many respects gradually and subtly—as in the way of all such things—taken over the musical field since the smiling days of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and a somewhat later Hit Parade. Performers who nowadays routinely pocket hefty fees, leaving behind a public that is generally more bored and jaded after such renditions than it was before. But almost never, any more, does there occur a cultural exchange such as took place that Friday morning some months ago, such as were however quite common back in the forties. That sort of thing namely which both spurs and signifies a deep and truly-significant kind of urban life and development.

The old cowboy no longer goes to that park, a regular source of innocent pleasure and relaxation now rather bringing to mind an irritating memory. Leaving the old gray, locally-familiar emptiness to take over once again, like the waves of the sea filling a momentary hollow. Here being one tiny part of a many-dimensional key as to why only one little area of this ample and potentially-attractive—rather than large and impersonal—park is used to anything like its true capacity. For here we are talking about certain often-illusive but vital values in the absence of which no amount of infrastructure will suffice.

An illustration of brighter urban possibilities was an area that once thrived on Chicago’s Near North Side. In the 50s and 60’s it was a bustling locality with 50-some nationalities packed into a couple of square miles, a place full of family-run service businesses, including delicatessens, specialty shops, ethnic restaurants. Cafes and bars that were really friendly, each in its own inimitable right, with clienteles built up over time and long-standing patronage. Being a far-cry from today’s eating places: almost-invariably either socially-artificial or frosty. Singularly-generic in both food and atmosphere: whether Mexican, Classic-American or Chinese. In the middle of which one-time shops used to be found a music store: but not just a place with lines of instruments but rather with an open door in the Summer spilling out the uniquely-vigorous and stimulating sounds of genuine, live American folklore. A venue for myriad local artists, with a whole barrel of peanuts free for the taking, both for the musicians and passers-by who stopped to linger and listen. Guys and gals were in there “picking” intensely and with genuine fervor, on some days seemingly from morning to night. But back then around ’62 not really engrossed in ideology, nor yet typically sporting beards, nor victims of a running obsession with sex: but rather almost rapturously abstracted into the burstingly-rich world of genuine North-American culture. With an atmosphere which bespoke the world of Mark Twain and a nearby Mississippi river, or even the first pristine Chicago of the 1820s and early 30s: the one with French-speaking Pottawatomies for its first citizens. A culture that in some ways still animated places like Joliet down the river, in a fertile bend in the DesPlaines river which some three centuries ago had so captured the eye of the French explorer after whom it was named. Music played for love rather than for money or even for protest, although some did indeed help pay for some of their schooling in this way. While by such tokens as these life can be seen to have been truly good to almost all of us back then in many ways. And we knew it: being no privileged whiners and cry-babies as would a few years hence abound. Although one didn’t necessarily have to have been born and bred into poverty to appreciate such boons as were ours. While those among us who were indeed down-at-the-heels were in many ways quite-indistinguishable, and un-remarked, from the better-to-do.

Among surrounding enterprises, in nineteenth-century, sometimes-parapeted storefronts, were bakeries too, where you were given a hearty warm welcome from out of the vaporous cold of a Windy City February. Run by people who really made you feel important, because they really thought you were. The neighborhood sidewalks there were busy from early morning to very late at night, and thus quite safe, incredibly-enough embracing in their warm security even many of the relatively-dark stretches between corners of the old side-streets. An enveloping safety that was nearly inviolable, except for the two or three hours just before five or so in the morning. All the time that was left for miscreants to do furtive deeds.

But the little island of inspiration, activity and contentment was destined to be “developed”, with all that this apocalyptic coming-of-age inevitably entails. Structures and facilities whether private, official/privatized or candidly-corporate being either glossily “restored” or newly-built according to the latest star-trek or other post-modern motif. Leaving little room for those physical peculiarities of odd, age-weathered nooks and crannies which once captured conspiratorially the howl of the wind, or musings and chord sequences of artists and listeners gone-by. While the wealthy newcomers who have mostly moved in since those days—in that gentrification which is too-often death to authentic, truly-fertile neighborhood identity—would today no-doubt be hard-pressed to find a plumber, painter, tuck-pointer, supply shop, or other handy little store in the area. The kinds of skills and services that once abounded, often partaking of a neighborly social delicacy akin to the subtler strokes of banjo, fiddle or mandolin. Enterprises once found within a few blocks or a short ride. Nor for that matter would they any longer find the old safe sidewalks—albeit of age-stained, cracked and freeze-and-thaw-canted native flagstone—upon which to go in search of now-non-existent places and figures. Providing interesting foot-level sights which used to pleasantly frame peaceful perambulatory meditations summer and winter, morning, noon and night. In trips to the same old ready, sometimes-closely-competing suppliers of things and abilities that the typical property-owner doesn’t readily possess. As for instance those tradesmen who might have curious anecdotes to relate, across the counter or under the sink between turns of the monkey wrench: a far different breed from the surly-silent or loud, profane and boorish lot who now dominate most of the trades today. A different breed too from those out at the country club, habitually pleasant not at all out of some overwrought obligation to “socialize”, nor even to fend off creeping paranoia, but oddly-enough purely out of the perfectly un-preoccupied, unrehearsed, candid impulse of the hour. Such persons being now only a memory: for one thing because rising rents and the newcomers’ tremendous real estate buying power—or that of manicured new businesses, with their typical rude or condescending staffs, that follow the latter wherever they go—have sent all these naturally-communicative and conscientiously-inoffensive people packing. Having no doubt been robbed as well in the process of an inestimable part of themselves which they are little likely to recover in their new surroundings.

The last time I saw the old business district it was a shrunken island of trendy chain-restaurants, franchised “artsy” stores, government-outsourced offices and expensive and coldly-incommunicative apartment houses. Notable too for those canned places where you buy glasses, hairdos or some other generic item or service. Or sit for a tattooing: perhaps by the same old biker crowd that took over the music world. Bluebeards who, were they to appear, would no doubt throw their heads back and laugh long and hard at “mousy” non-aggressive one-time-denizens of an older world. The little district forming a roughly-defined peninsula moored in a surrounding sea of recently-run-down residential neighborhoods. Since the socioeconomic plethora that once drove the area had been ruptured, seemingly beyond repair. This now-standard combination in so many such older areas—of the sleek and correct adjacent to the run-down—causing the eyes to search urgently for a point of visual interest—welcoming even the occasional colorful island of weeds on some street-corner. While any attempt to protect the old youthfulness by local legislation is invariably stricken down by higher courts: righteous robed defenders that they are of a supposedly-wounded “free enterprise”. Putative wounds over which multinational corporations howl most piteously. All the while today’s much-vaunted, bayonet-exported, “rule of law”—of a sort which is uncannily-fond of “toppling” people, and this in less-and-less covert ways—proves strangely incapable, in this its very home-of-homes, of protecting those things which we ourselves hold most dear. And which are indeed and ultimately—if sometimes indirectly—critical to our very local and national survival.

            Some of the most economically-healthy and prosperous areas in the nation can be driven through and barely noticed, and may even somehow be mysteriously immune to more glitzy forms of development. But we are always painfully aware of the dreary, vacant parks and the newly-dead neighborhoods, albeit with the occasional converted store-front or house which still somehow uncannily carries about it, silently, the atmosphere of happier days. Shrouded in the black-crepe weather-marks of its new estate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Location and Agglomeration

Economics

 

 

            Considered here is a journal article by the economist Phillip McCann related to the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the locations of firms. Entitled “Rethinking the Economics of Location and Agglomeration”, it deals with the phenomenon of “space” as it effects a mostly-urban world of industry: a subject which today looms large in the writings of economists, planners and statistical researchers alike. While under consideration here are two separate but closely-related phenomena: namely, the impact of any particular spatial/infrastructural/economic milieu upon a single business within it: that which is generally termed agglomeration economies, on the one hand. And secondly those same spatial contributive factors as they relate to a whole specific industry—dubbed economies of locationon the other. Actually, the only difference between these two closely-related sub-fields is that in the case of agglomeration spatial influences are seen as multi-dimensional infrastructure at the service of any single firm: this in a certain universal if locally-bounded physical/commercial milieu. While in economies-of-location largely the same myriad localized factors are considered as well: but only as they are related directly to a certain broader but-still-specific “up-and-down-stream” productive world of an individual industry, which of course contains many separate businesses, arranged in an informal-if-hierarchical input/output oriented functional series. Hence the nuts-and-bolts world of components suppliers, regional industry-wide transport and scale economies, peculiarities of localized knowledge- and labor-pools: with some of which industrial elements we are so well-acquainted that they typically escape all notice as we drive by. But the whole gist of McCann’s article involves a critique of accepted location theory, the generic term for the conventional wisdom in regard to both these spatially-oriented operational and organizational milieus. And he does so furthermore at a point considered especially-critical by today’s dominant neo-classical economists: namely with respect to the ability of standard locational theory to stand up to the overriding cost criteria of the classical and neo-classical school. This being one of a handful of that academy’s typical points of inquiry. While much of my own point is that while the questions the author raises, as with much else in the didactic framework of Smithean/Marshallean “classical” economics, are plainly valid within their own points-of-triangulation, yet when it comes to the firm—or to anything else, for that matter—the whole approach of concentrating on one of a handful of things to the exclusion of a host of others at least as important in practical terms can be perfectly counterproductive after a point.

            Certain salient features of the debates of the neo-classical school of economics even cause me to wonder about the wisdom of endowing and funding whole departments to sustain them: so that even the advantages of a certain “critical method of thinking”—that which these economists regard as especially characteristic of their approach—seems capable of finding far-greener pastures on which to feed. Exchanging a calculus so much of numbers for one of a subtle and sophisticated interplay of human, natural and process-dynamic forces: elements which fundamentally affect the market in a vital and existential, rather than purely abstract and hypothetical, way. For regardless of whether or not location theory is properly quantifiable according to the digital, higher-math and regression-formula rigors of neo-classical theory the fact is that it works, and this obviously, redundantly and many times over, and as attested by many prominent examples. While to me the more positive and productive place of cost analysis is the humbler one of keeping the vessel of the firm safely from scraping bottom, rather than hoping to garner profits of its own parsimonious accord. And letting bolder and more-forward-looking steersmen such as marketing and product development for the most part see to that bark’s future and highly-eventful seaward passage.

            Can it be that in the neo-classicists we are dealing with people who positively must have an across-the-board capsizing every five years or so, based entirely upon leveraging, cost-analysis, insider-trading, and other entirely artificial/numerical means—after which eager insiders can salvage the bobbing wreckage, and thereupon in furtive dry-docks construct something entirely weird and new. While myriad others "go under" certain dominant figures doing exceedingly well: they who are intimately familiar ahead-of-time with blueprints of the strange and gargantuan new vessel thus unveiled? If so, is this what we really want, what motivates us to built economies or industries in the first place? As the future gets braver, weirder and more barbaric with each passing day?

Of course, being a modern American economist, McCann's main concern is to quantify. Thus the statement “the philosophical problem with Neo-Classical location theory is that (the) fundamental requirement of an analytical reference point is not fulfilled” (567). Yet in the real world of location this is hardly cause for hand-wringing trepidation: however much alarm such an observation might still cause within the oddly-closed, not-to-say inhibiting, confines of neo-classical theory. The problem being that actual location and agglomeration involve the intrinsic intervention of myriad factors besides those found amid the rigid paradigms of the celebrated market model, and certainly abstract well beyond rote journal-entry concerns. Perhaps even marking out dramatically and at long last and in its own especially-forceful way the parting-of-ways of economics properly-so-construed from the world of mere accounting, and to a few brave souls even constituting a first hesitant battle-cry against the hegemony of corporate stocks and bonds.

            McCann goes on to give the definition of “a product”: noting that it must meet a certain description of bulk, weight, appearance, etc. to still be the same item. Hence after the inputs involved in agglomeration are put in—knowledge pooling, availability of secondary resources, up and down stream efficiencies and dis-efficiencies, and so on—if this causes the product to change in any way then there is ipso facto said to be no longer any basis of those precious precise analyses so at the heart of the Neo Classical approach. But to me the invasion of these and other near-imponderables into the home-turf of the staid Puritan conventions of Smith and Bentham really represents a highly-motivating revisiting of real life to same, an influx reminiscent of the startling, idea-provoking cries of hawkers, and away from the dull, dismal and thought-discouraging determinisms of Marx, Malthus, Ricardo and much of the classical school. And this even if the product or processes involved have undergone disturbing changes in such a rude, rough-and-tumble milieu of the irreligiously un-pre-possessed. Since for one and from a productive perspective the only thing that matters is that firms are successful in a whole and integral sense, with a hint of the indefinable playing a significant role in true “successes” of any sort. The kind of metaphysics which may make the loyal Calvinist shudder with anticipation, having an element of mystery which smacks of Catholicism in the most disturbing of ways to such souls. But which is positively definitive to location theory.

            Indeed and in spite of the recent impressive media-assisted revival of neo-classicism there still remains a small but articulate body of engineers and economists who steadfastly resist an approach as hypothetical as it is almost-toe-countingly mathematical in nature: these pathfinders comprised of a few academic-battle-hardened warriors who remain unmoved before intimidating summation symbols, double-integrals, derivatives, and dummy-variables, ranged in rank-and-file. That which can become a kinds of kabalistic ritual all of its own kind. While especially problematical to me is the manner in which McCann and other writers utilize the term "classical" to describe modern locational theory: that which is then circularly-criticized as inadequate to the task of quantifying cost considerations. This preemptive categorical inclusion of a burgeoning new field of inquiry for the most part only a few decades old within the confines of a century-and-a-half-old school—and the subsequent finding that it measures-up poorly to the latter’s constraints and expectations—such a procedure hardly suffices to disqualify the more recent ideas as spurious pedagogy. An undertaking reminiscent indeed of an invariable rejection—among those elders of a certain oft-mocked disposition—of imaginative new departures—or “new fangled ideas”—of the younger generations of all times. This resistance-to-change often indeed a worthy endeavor, but only if the older value is incontestably good. While rather obviously to me locational theory is a different kettle of fish entirely, and a good one indeed, escaping the older school’s parameters with ease. Having decidedly departed from the start from the classical well-marked, if insistently-marketed, trail.

            Continuing to insist that location theory cannot stand up to Neo-Classical abstract analysis McCann notes that “there are too many variables, and the model as set becomes meaningless as a basis for discussing why we observe that particular types of firms producing particular products exhibit particular types of locational behavior” (568). But all this can easily-enough be conceded without the loss of one iota of the newer field’s moving force: indeed with the escape of the firm from its neo-classical asylum goes a long way toward explaining the prodigal success of locational “agglomerative clusters” like Tokyo-Yokohama-Osaka. So that had Japan worried too much about locational cost issues—let alone their precise quantification—it might still easily be marketing sensitively-painted pottery as a chief export, vessels indeed valuable in their own right, gatherable in gross from otherwise-unconnected villages and towns. Rather of course did that nation build infrastructure, tax, trade and other elements of commerce around a geographically-connected idea: arguably only as a kind of after-thought tying these tools and resources to any corporate investment’s yearly or quarterly bottom line. Since time immemorial a holistic positivity having provided the force and meaning to legitimate discipline in any sane system: the Japanese’ native vigorous, tactical-risk-taking, and enterprising constitution having seen to the rest. That which as a totality was bound to prosper. Of course McCann's main concern, again, is found in the attempt to arrive at a precise numerical correlation between cost-constraints, R&D, etc., and the subtle, often subliminal effect of the interplay of the many human and process-oriented realities central to the baffling phenomena of location (573). Things that however under modern technological and information-society-driven conditions are changing almost from day to day.

            One very strong tie-in between agglomeration and location on the one hand and the neo-classical school on the other does however unquestionably exist: one not mathematically-rigorous yet highly practical and intuitive in nature. Namely in the discovery that many location/agglomeration-related advances and breakthroughs quite typically come about through the encouraging spur of close-at-hand competition. This classical-economics standby—than which none more representative could possibly have been found—being within the common resorts of agglomeration breed with great vigor. Cutting-edge advances being thus incubated in vitreo within one of the familiar constraints of industry: and no doubt with the conspiracy of others of an equally-practical kind. This rather than from out of putative and now-proverbial triumphs of minds and "diverse lifestyles" over beer and Tostitos: that which reputedly take place daily in Silicone Valley. The latter non-correlation in fact having been convincingly argued recently by researchers. While the essential role of its amply-connective opposite—the noted close-at-hand competition—was confirmed in essence already in the 1890s by Marshall.

            There is throughout much concern in McCann’s article with “cost issues on which firms will be attempting to economize when choosing their location” (573): but here again may easily lie much rote and counterproductive worry over the stock-holder’s short-term-profit-oriented bottom line, the stock-in-trade of a disturbing number of economists. Something which at best is always a gamble. As suggested, historic ground-breaking dynamisms—after which there are indeed profits to be had—have always been difficult to fit into standard journal-entry—let-alone rent-farming—scenarios—so that a rigid adherence to neo-classical economic dogma in such matters may represent a kind of gratuitous academic ritual ablution, or even a hardening-of-the-trade-model-arteries of disturbing proportions. Hence the author seems nonplussed—or is perhaps so only rhetorically—that “in many industrial sectors, the nature of the products or services produced are continuously changing. Under these circumstances it is not possible for a firm to know which spatial or a-spatial hierarchy it will find itself in at any point of time in the future” (570). An unpredictability however which is of the very essence of the modern economy, of its profits as well as its risks: and I would argue likewise of truly-positive and consequential economic development and human advancement as a whole both historically and in any setting. Within a uniquely-vigorous entrepreneurial culture in which, with high significance, “the little guy” has typically-enough been allowed a host of otherwise-inaccessible advantages. A fact which conversely may give us a glimpse into a method hidden among so much neo-classical madness. In a school which favors those bare-bones, sweeping and gratuitously-hypothetical analyses—and hostile takeovers—which tend less toward trade’s true dynamisms than toward the fossilization of the multinational corporation’s invisible-but-ever-predetermining, if correctly-Jacobin/Calvinistic, hand.

            As the author reminds us, the whole issue of location in the old market model is reduced to a comparison between the quantifiable cost of a move and the cost of remaining fixed to the same geographical spot. But it is actually the largely-unforeseeable concatenation of all inputs that really counts, with subtle and incalculable ingredients of human capital playing an especially important and inscrutable role. Supplying a rough analog to the contributory function of infrastructure in urban development: whose largely-unforeseeable dividends—indeed in a sense the more unforeseeable the better—are paid out only in the long-run. And from which it is patently foolish to expect an instant dollar-for-dollar, bottom-line return. In the neo-con “pay as you go” penny-wise-but-pound-foolish parsimony. The winning formula must indeed be counted as containing a healthy dose of savvy or intuition, with a notable by-product in the “fun” that is involved: that which is itself and in turn the most-highly-fertile of secondary in-vitreo cultivars. The Wright brothers no doubt had few cost projections—locational or otherwise—on which to predict success or failure—let alone dividends—in the looming new field of aviation: which no doubt at first paid the two shareholders chiefly in bruises and excitement. Maybe all McCann is doing is making an admission of the relative-inapplicability of classical economics to such nobler realms, and if so a huge and eminently-welcome one indeed.

            Back in 1957 Walter Isard of Harvard Business School was one of the first to write about location in an organized way. Comprehensive and non-ideological throughout—as so many of his time so happily were—he begins by stating that individuals evince a “positive space preference”: meaning simply that they prefer to be in groups (194). This is something he attributes to a degree even to hermits and monastic communities, while also considering it to be as much psychological as anything else (192). Positive space preference is also held to be more or less directly related to time-preference: namely in a desire to have things sooner rather than later. While a direct relationship is likewise claimed as existing between this phenomenon and increased productivity, vis-à-vis the multipliers of population density (193). (All such talk being of course bad news for our generally well-fed, opinion-unanimous “gay”, anti-life and anti-population mega-lobbies.) Likewise, he holds that the rate of discount in space may be considered as identical to the transport rate (194): thus being directly favorable to agglomeration, which calculates the latter with considerable rigor.

            According to Isard an advance in transport technology pushes the supply curve of distance inputs to the right—tending thereby to transform a diffuse scattering of core and input industries into an elongated but concentrated and coordinated pattern, or perhaps one that is rather x or star shaped. As likely to be a circuit as a cluster, within a sense of location no longer constrained so much by distance-to-markets, as in the past, but rather more by the logic of direction, convenience and connectivity, with a host of related—and again sometimes mysterious—factors closing the locational circle-of-priorities as well. Hence location of plants is arrived at through “progressive differentiation and selection between sites with superior and inferior resources and trade routes”.

Ergo: the enterprises radiating from certain outlying roads or inner-city boulevards: the latter as notably represented by such arteries as Tempe, Arizona's high-tech West Broadway: this just down the street from multidisciplinary engineering/electronics/business-college think-tanks of ASU. Such a configuration spawning a tremendous intensification of output, since we are speaking of the practical amalgamation of separate plants, schools and businesses into a virtual multipurpose unified, living if highly-loose-knit and private-property-respecting, whole. While numerous parks, cafes, bars, and other upbeat locations of lively commerce in downtown Tempe do indeed provide a venue for an above-noted conviviality, celebrated as catalytic to so many productive things. The whole plethora either centered around a single industry or a uniquely-supportive, infrastructure-rich interweave of several. Such densely-interfaced realities—capable of taking on dynamic qualities that suggest the human body or other living things—accord very well with much of locational economics: indeed rendering relatively unremarkable its frequent departures into the unfathomable. While Isard’s citing of the importance of psychological considerations would also seem to suggest the same subtle and un-definable qualities of any truly progressive economy as considered here.

            Were the illusive figure of the international investor to settle down and insert himself resolutely within some such spatially-specific amalgam of plant and industry, his back-pack stuffed with supplies for every sort of rude emergency, and to associate himself inseparably and in real terms with its corollary financial, geographical and social advantages, as well as its trials and perils: then whole scenarios, locational and otherwise, would change dramatically and incalculably for the better. Even so wild a stallion as location theory—able to clear the forbidding fences of neo-classical dogma with such ease—might be tamed within such a smaller but actually less-chafing arena, reducing cost-related off-buckings and associated fractures to less-daunting proportions. Very often diminishing the risks involved—which can be ponderous within the ranging world of global finance—to domesticated, tractable proportions, as uniquely-cushioning micro-economies come closely into play. This while the business worlds of whole regions and industries could after a certain point become much more understandable—and even to a degree much more quantifiable—in far more objective terms by such means. Things having been correlated in a thoroughgoing way which no statistical software can hope to equal, let alone prognosticate. Even as the risks—and brakes upon a creative imagination—inherent in a broader kind of finance/management might remain essential to some purely-public activities and ventures—as in the case of public utilities. Solicitudes such as the corporation was indeed originally designed to embody.

Writing somewhat later than Isard—but with like skill rescuing agglomeration from arcane realms of neo-classicism—in 1966 Raymond Vernon writes of a certain as-it-were conversational quality as being at the core of locational concerns. “There is good reason to believe that the entrepreneur’s consciousness of and responsiveness to opportunity are a function of ease of communication; and further, that ease of communication is a function of geographical proximity” (192). He then goes on to cite a related and especially-perceptive discovery by C.P. Kindleberger of what he calls the “horizon” of the decision-maker: something communicational, informational, intermediate-input related, etc. Hence the same operator “can only be rational (i.e., efficient) within this horizon” (192), in an insight which is then conversely applied directly to the lack of such a horizon for entrepreneurs in places like Latin America, where of course those very sorts of agglomerations found in Tempe or Silicone Valley are sadly lacking. Places that in the United States do so much to make available the noted critical, pivotal horizon: one which is highly-complex, socially-and-materially-hospitable and wealth-producing. An international disparity—the very opposite indeed of the classical convergence hypothesis—which has in fact sizably deepened in the years since the article was published.

            Here again—in this very broad concept of horizon—are we dealing with something considerably more dense and complicated than conventional Marshallian cost constraints. McCann would of course agree that to the entrepreneur the initial uncertainties of every sort at the inauguration of the development of a new product or technology require “swift and effective communication on the part of the producer with customers, suppliers, and even competitors” (195). But Vernon goes on further to support my own contention almost word for word, saying that “all these considerations will tend to go beyond those of simple factor cost analysis and transport considerations” (196). Something with which McCann would indeed seem to agree, if no doubt from out of a perfectly different calculus of concerns.

            Continuing his groundbreaking study of those forces which really do populate the world of location theory Vernon goes far a-field, out of the purely urban ambit and into the arena of international trade: in which regard mention is made of the need to “maintain the status quo” between competitors. A need to mitigate countervailing advantages, like those implied in a reverse flow of products back to the U.S. from a competitor’s foreign subsidiary. Thus introducing questions of cost: again, the very concern of McCann, but after a different sense. While active here as well are other considerations of which the home-bound contender is unable to stay abreast, so that as a consequence there issues a tendency for the latter to likewise locate facilities abroad: yet with little more knowledge of the costs involved beyond the perception that it will be manifestly more costly in the long run—critically limited in his potential—to stay where he is. This newly-arriving competitor from back home thus being likely to locate in proximity to the competition: confirming at a wider level the above-cited statement of Marshall that close-at-hand competition is a fundamental engine driving locational and agglomerational economies. Journal-entry cost-concerns keeping breathless pace with oceanic traversals as they may. While Vernon even made a remarkably perspicacious prediction of a future significant expansion of foreign branches of major U.S. corporations, based on just such non-computational, discursive locational reflections. And this at a time when such corporate transplantings were still in their first infancy.

            Obviously, we can wire things up in such a way that everything on earth is artificially, digitally connected, and we are all inescapably "in each-other's faces" from China to Schenectady, thus joining location theory nicely to radical-globalist international trade: a venture surely supremely attractive to a certain dominant breed. But again, is this really something humanity wants, or is it something for someone limitlessly powerful who doesn't want humanity?

Here in Isard, Vernon and Kindleberger's writings are accommodated the same desire to “keep on the cutting edge”, to snoop on competitors in honest conventional or unconventional ways, things ever at the base of locational considerations: alike in terms of product advances, market behavior, knowledge of the minutiae of peculiar costs, hints of tentative trends that might pan out dramatically and decisively, etc. Determining elements for which one must “keep one’s ear to the (locational) ground” in a host of ways, rather than by way of so much study of cost regressions, nor yet of the peculiarities of the social habits of software engineers.

            But it is above all the very "path dependency" of the classical model which should worry economists like McCann, and make them eager to embrace the vagaries of agglomeration and location at all costs. Indeed the very predictability of costs and of standard economic behavior—in light of a much-noted calcifying phenomenon—is that which should cause most alarm. Since the rote, standard performance of highly-monitorable classical market mechanisms—ever linked to investment-management’s thick bottom line—gradually and cumulatively bring about a kind of poured-in-concrete product-developmental determinism: that to which the noted artificial unification of the world only gives added girth, constructing a thought-and-life-restrictive monolith rather than an energetic, interactive, reciprocating commercial ecosystem all-its-own. While all the dependency upon abstract mathematical models to which neoclassicism is inextricably tied also unavoidably brings much duplication-of-effort in its stride, the whole colossus cumulatively redounding to a kind of global geriatric condition, a kind of arthritis, or hardening-of-the-trade-arteries, as it were. One which as suggested allows in fact for fewer and fewer "winners": that ever-constrictive end-game which merger and monopoly always have remorselessly in mind. While prosperity does far better, I contend, in real terms, as seen in a multitude of big if-resource-sharing fish in little ponds, rather than as a handful of leviathans blindly and ponderously traveling path-dependent global sea-lanes to the extinction of all but themselves. In a world economic scenario in which a duplicative, breathlessly-debt-driven “make-more-of-something-faster-and-cheaper” determinism becomes the sine qua non of commerce and industry alike: giving us rapidly-deteriorating quality, rubber not properly vulcanized, cloth not properly dyed or "sanforized". ("Don't bother: we'll just change the brand-name next week, and sales will continue off the charts"). This obviously and redundantly to the increasing neglect of a truly-ample and imaginative product development: that which most feeds on the incalculable vigors of human capital, and especially-unhampered dynamisms of humane and truly-sophisticated societies. The distributive, multi-path approach which I advocate gravitating toward product lines suited to their actual, difficult-to-mathematically-quantify needs, and scarcely-yet-contemplated innovations: requirements as kaleidoscopic—and unpredictable—as the human persons—and spirits—of which such an ampler economic world is most essentially composed. With profits being spread among those most familiar with the enterprise—these being thereby strongly-enabled to apply critical nudges and tweaks—as well as major departures and overhauls—where needed. In laborious, sometimes tedious processes in which are to be found startling innovative inspirations. Engaging people who truly labor for their pay, productive in turn of a body of consumers with tremendously diffusive and diversified buying power. Competitive productive volume—let alone cost analysis or short-term-oriented profit—these now being happily reduced to a contingency, as indeed they should be, rather than hogging space as the do-all and end-all of the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limits to Growth

 

Few know that during the mid-1980s there occurred the first significant slow-down in global agricultural productivity in half a century, being the outcome of a comprehensive global policy of developmental neglect, one that came close on the heels of an expansion of near-geometric proportions. This epic slowdown being sponsored, if amid much verbal and gestural camouflage, by an ever-active “less than zero” population-growth lobby: composed in turn of academics and investment strategists, "gays" and other anti-life elements: a well-heeled, formidable constituency indeed. One which directly or indirect brings us policy-packages that don’t stop short of playing God, this often-enough and not-surprisingly from “behind closed doors”, at elite venues like the “Club or Rome” or the “Rio Conference”, in ongoing deliberations of the G-Eight, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, or even such weird places as a candidly-Moloch-worshipping Bohemian Grove north of San Francisco. Forces packed with people who supposedly “know what’s best” formulating radical interventions not at all likely to better the human lot, their putative and much-trumpeted aim. Being rather-more-directly intent upon remaking the human family, and even those personalities of which it is composed: in a horror story of comprehensive control which dovetails neatly with the most cynical of laissez-faire neo-conservative policy goals, with places like Abu Ghraib now and again being found to lie someplace at their moral-bottom-scraping nadir. That facility which was in turn only based upon an experiment at Stanford in 1971, and an earlier at Pitesti in a radical-communist Rumania, in the early 1950s. Such programs being facets of a global agenda aimed at the limiting of human populations and the eclipsing of the human person, in acts of staggering condescension, “for our own good”. Ambitions critically-complementary to one-another which earlier operated for decades in tandem without serious impediment across the political divides of the Cold War: humanity in reality being regarded by this unitary power-monolith as a mere play thing, even a mortal enemy, its population to be preemptively reduced to a mere fraction of its present size. Its native power-agency shrunken to a mere atom of God-given-or-intended proportions.

Hence the ghoulishly-enthusiastic way that the economist Moses Abramovitz waxes eloquent in praise of war, that roaring engine of population reduction and financial extraction alike, perhaps imagining that a strange sort of policy-marketer’s overkill has rendered us all incapable of grasping the horrors of the slaughterhouse which such a “solution” prescribes. His a fiery, Wagnerian "worlds-in-collision" view, Marxist-dialectical to the core, in that deterministic process-philosophy so endemic to the modern academic mind. Here in this utter disregard of human life being found a convergence of right and left of the most revealing kind. To quote Abramowitz, "Defeat in war and accompanying political convulsion (are) a radical ground-clearing experience opening the way for new men (!), new organizations, and new modes of operation and trade better fitted to technological potential." (Moses Abramowitz, "Catching up, Forging Ahead, and Falling Behind". In Development and Underdevelopment: the Political Economy of Global Inequality. Edited by Mitchell A. Seligson and John T. Passe-Smith. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner, Publishers, 1998, p. 98.) Thus goes the scorched-earth, Hegelian sort of progress, one that was so beloved of the social nihilists of the 19th and 20th centuries, they who gained the highest levels of the organizational citadel thereafter and to a significant degree planned and staged the major military conflicts of their times. A madness in which there is much method, this Anglo-American-adopted geo-politik having for one thing over the past century and more opened up trade-routes of every description: these however mostly stolen from more-benign and less-ideologically-driven peoples around the globe.

There is always with the leading figures of this elite policy-dictating world, whether in the van, the vanguard, or among the loyal opposition, the apotheosis of war, of abortion, or of whole populations allowed to die slowly of starvation and/or underdevelopment while others prosper wildly. A blasé celebration-of-the-privileged which covers over a mindset of incomprehensible brutality and negativity, in festivities which must however ultimately prove a terrible disappointment even to the most spirited of the party-goers involved. And as if to show the elitist, exclusionary, privilege-oriented nature of his perspective—shared, if not so openly, by many of his colleagues in the field of economics—Abramovitz sub-titles his article "the view from the other side."

Such an irrational “economic rationality” is oddly helped-along as well by a kind of marketer’s conceptual “overkill”: only a part of a flood of data, both true and untrue, which renders our minds as it were uncannily numbed as to the perception of key underlying principles necessary toward their interpretation. Since we can sometimes have too much data to deal with: so that the resulting disorientation can actually dispose us toward a kind of pliable apathy. That namely of which the modern herd-manager in particular, investment and otherwise, takes notably-full advantage: indeed having his ears to the ground for associated premonitory hoof-related rumblings of all kinds. These echoing amid dense clouds of thought-atomizing minutiae precipitated from billboard, commercial and media-commentary alike: raising a smoke screen on this marketer’s trail amid whose dark, convoluted folds many a valuable head of cattle somehow disappears and is never heard from again.

What is needed as a critical preliminary—to protect the human person, the human family, from ultimate annihilation by elite, self-proclaimed “friends”—is a simple change in our attitudinal habits—a kind of healing—as if to come forth from out of the sacrificial groves of Canaan, or the billowing clouds of modern hyper-promotion—abandoning once and for all golden calves set up “in the high places”. A re-prioritization after centuries of the planetary worship of the star of "success": one that is wealth-extractive rather than multiplicative, and ultimately destructive of real wealth itself. After which inner recalibration a critically-necessary basic horizontal widening and close-at-hand diversification of productive efforts could proceed much more swiftly, with promising beginnings of such a realistic and positive human and resource development having been repeatedly realized locally during the 70s and early 80s in many successful industrial/economic projects in diverse settings. This as amply recorded in scholarly articles on growth and development that were consulted. Thus does Denis Goulet remark in regard to the highly-successful development strategy followed in Guinea-Bissau in the South Pacific: "Paradoxically, the lesson of the greatest importance is that the best model of development is the one that any society forges for itself on the anvil of its own specific conditions." Jameson, Weaver and Wilber, "Strategies of Development: A Survey". In Development Economics: Theory, Practice, and Prospects. Edited by Thomas R. DeGregori. Boston: Kliewer Academic Publishers, 1989, p. 160).  And similarly, "Development economists are forced to transcend a specific scientific paradigm to become artisans of the particular." ( ibid p 161).

Were nations, regions and localities allowed to freely develop according to their own genius—and largely within their own resource parameters—the result would be wealth-prolific beyond imagination—amply accommodating in turn an extremely dense population in many extended areas. True wealth being by nature as it were locally-peculiar, while the modern unanimity of mode and method remains fruitful chiefly in an operational alienation, even a productive pathology, which rather contains the seeds of its own destruction. Namely as contained in the massive centralization which gradually arose after centuries of depredations of Moslem and Viking raids and slave-trade, these many times closely or loosely connected to a millennial Jewish global finance, creating a monolith which ultimately became the leitmotif of the world economy.

Rather appropriate to all circumstances and potentialities is a political economy based on the model of the fruit tree, with its roots deep in the local and regional soil, with ownership of both plant and land, and the realization of profits, being exclusively reserved to the firm itself, and those most directly involved in it operation. This in a localized, firmly-rooted wealth-creation, all within a mutually-enabling political culture. The present counterproductive approach having been made possible, more than anything else, by the unprecedented and perverse global mobility of wealth: not however a mobility which denotes diffusion but rather the reverse, an elite and sterile carrying back and forth between the same near-insuperable bastions of exclusion. A mobility which by nature ends in the increasing concentration of the same wealth in various forms of debt income (Michael Melvin, International Money and Finance. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995, p. 30), with this in turn tending to fall into the hands of those who do the least toward its increase. The system by its very nature implying a “conspiracy” of sorts: even as such a perversely-cooperative exclusivity is regarded as normal and “rational” by today’s dominant neo-classical economists. While it is rather only within the perennial efficiencies of a truly-rational species of localization that today's prodigal waste and environmental deterioration can be effectively eliminated.

Such highly-positive means are in fact the easiest and most straight-forward of all, while the present top-heavy arrangement shows itself to require the ceaseless unnatural straining of human and material resources toward its maintenance: this for the benefit of a rapidly-diminishing few. Here being an extravagant arrangement which those atop such an ever-sharpening pyramid do indeed at present have the power to effect, that power namely which is of the very pith of the perverse “rationality” of the modern corporate-sponsored economist. Indeed having the temerity to take that which is noblest in man—his God-given rational intelligence—and in mock eloquence equate it with the sort of economic behavior that would be unwelcome among aphids, termites or rats.

This view finds perhaps its ultimate expression in the Malthusian population dogma—that chief of modern creeds in which academic credulity reaches its zenith—and which after two centuries still somehow motivates most educated minds—that which in all justice deserves the prize in this contest among the exponents of an irrational rationality. Remaining impervious as the educated today so oddly do to the reality that the whole world population could fit, lying down and without touching, in an area the size of one of our larger cities: a fact which a simple cross-country train ride also corroborates in an equally-convincing way. Visually confirming that even under “classical” global debt-driven arrangements—so sterile, as noted, in their wealth-creating capacities—it is not true that the world population is too large—or likely to become too large—for its food and other resources. So that the whole paradigm of Malthus, Ricardo and Planned Parenthood alike is found to be skewed fantastically toward population control and a kind of "Scrooge" mentality lamented by Charles Dickens and the popes of the 19th century. A grim fabrication that has indeed more-recently required that we “send in the clowns” for its perpetuation: this in the ongoing takeover of the policy drivers seats by radicals of every stripe and at all levels. Leaders from both parties tending to converge—or to make gentlemen's agreements—on this anti-life, anti-population policy imperative.

The fact is that "population growth does not demonstrate growing misery. It rather gives evidence of the strong and unprecedented fall of mortality, which is tantamount to a tremendous improvement of the quality of human life in the developing countries”. (Gunter Steinman, "Population, Resources, and Limits to Growth”. In above-cited Development Economics, etc., p. 97). Such a rubbing of dust from eyes on the noted mis-informational trail being an exercise which only the most incurable kind of misanthrope can possibly despise; while there is likewise revealed here to the thoughtful how very differently some clear-eyed men can look at the very same things, according to their prejudice or contrasting good will.

Continuing in this vein, the same author—citing historical studies of population levels in many places, all of which invariably follow the same curve through development and post-development phases—goes on to overturn celebrated dire predictions about population increase. "The process of fertility decline (now present in all developed countries) has already started (in third world countries). The growth rate will become smaller and smaller and will fall below the peak rates of the last decades" (ibid, p. 97). This same process is also repeatedly pointed out in numerous other studies, holding especially true in societies where stable wealth gradually supplants the primitive needs of survival: for one thing creating time and opportunity for professional and intellectual pursuits which often involve either celibacy or the lengthy-putting-off of marriage and child-rearing. Scholarship or piety being found, too, for many, to be a far-more-absorbing spouse than any human consort: so much so, for instance, that Medieval European monarchs often had to beg their citizens to marry rather than enter convents in population-reducing numbers. Monasticism being more than anything else the product of a stable, prosperous, population-nourishing Christianity, with ample opportunities for that "holy leisure" in which those virtues and influences leading to the monastic or contemplative state are best able to come to flower. While likewise the at-times-almost-virginal intellectual virtues of true scholarship and the professional life typically-enough require a similarly-privileged training regimen as well. Such a humane scenario obviously pointing up the sheer gratuity of artificial-birth-control measures, these actually invariably being "discrete", ultra-convenient forms of abortion, basically through an umbilical-impervious hardening of the uterine wall, their numbers by this measure plainly numbering in the hundreds-of-billions over the past several decades of unrestrained ingestion of "birth control pills".

Answered in my readings as well is one of the other chief contentions of the population reduction lobby. "The idea that large, poor populations cause resource depletion is essentially untrue. For we all know that the wealthier side of the globe—especially the United States—consumes many times over what the poorer counterpart does. Although the latter is 2/3 of the whole. It is rather the hyper-consumers who need to learn not to slash and destroy everything for their own inconsiderate good" (ibid p 104). In a form of development which is both counterintuitive and counterproductive.

Convincingly disproved as well by researchers is the celebrated Ricardian and Malthusian imperative that there will always be diminishing returns to both labor and land in a developing world, as in the increasing employment of "marginal" acreage. Thus although there was a world increase in cropland of 8.9% between 1964-5 and 1981-3 (ibid p 107) this new acreage has hardly served to marginalize aggregate soil fertility, the rate of food production increase rather growing “faster than population in most countries of the world—(global) farm output (standing) at 4.1 percent annually in the 80s"—this figure well over the overall rate of population increase (ibid p 107). While in stark contradiction to Ricardo's bleak scenario, productivity per acre—even of supposedly marginal lands—is increasing due to new technologies and various new experimental mixes of land, labor and capital. So that even under the present counterproductively-unified global system—so poor in the usable idea-cultivars that are mentioned by the Harvard economist Martin Weitzman ("Recombinant Growth". The Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 1998, vol. 2)—third-world countries by employing only then-available agro-technological inputs could already in 1975 have adequately fed more than 16 times their populations (Development Economics: Theory, Practice, and Prospects. Edited by Thomas R. DeGregori. Boston: Kliewer Academic Publishers, 1989). This is of course not to even mention the already massive overproduction of first world farming: much of it today condemned to lie unconsumed in massive government storage facilities, or more recently to be used overwhelmingly as fuel crops, all the while starvation looms for much of the world, notably just now in 2014.

Rather than the mammoth, debt-breeding deity of capitalism what is needed is a financing which allows a critical "breathing space" for the conception of new and truly-useful ideas: instead of innovation being hastily and preemptively driven along by the spur of short-term profit-goals of impatient, dispassionate third-handed investment-managers. Real advancement involving many separate, unhurried investigations of new "idea-combinants" (Weitzman): in a setting—within the advocated localization—in which the influence of competing or foreign processes, inventions and ideas could prove to be especially catalytic or fertilizing in nature. In a product market in which the impact of a discovery somewhere else would work its way across the globe like a kind of swiftly-rolling stone—one that however lingers here and there long enough to pick up further elements of innovative “moss” on the way. Such a micro-delayed market being itself gradually brought into being and enabled by the renewed social definition of property and the return of a traditional-conceived form of money. A sort of slowed-down lightning, yet one amply greased by modern communications and transport. The kind of emporium which would favor a sharing of critical processes that today come under a grossly-overly-restrictive patenting, in whose regard trenchant, long-standing investor-motivated exclusions represent some of today’s most notorious hurdles in the way of critically needed global development (cf. www.maketradefair.org, Trade Report ).

Labor is by nature uniquely enfranchised within the advocated scenario, with a critical familiarity with the adaptive potential of plant and equipment often hiding amid the hum-drum of day-to-day chores. The experienced worker deploying physical things in an operational world easily becoming conceptually fluid and creative: analogous, closely or remotely connected operations, tools and intermediaries readily suggesting themselves—again within a less-harried time frame—this among carpenters, farm-workers, engineers and graphic designers alike. Each within his own medium and type of skill—and especially when operating in concert with other domains—being capable of bringing forth new and useable ideas, insights and products. Even the most “unskilled” having been known on historic occasions to discover ground-breaking processes and innovations unlikely to occur to a trained engineer, within a life-enhancing plethora of creativity that in fact now threatens to be lost in a gratuitously-robotized industrial culture. One which, lacking the noted human input of the “man on the scene”—to whom a whole universe of application can be discovered in peculiarities of a material in routine daily use, or in the "throw" of a tool—is likely to spontaneously generate a breed of products increasingly-foreign to deeper human needs. A certain investment-driven, unimaginative, hyper-tech vicious circle no doubt already having robbed invention of a chief source of truly sustainable and applicable inspiration.

Proven false too by the studies cited in Steinman is the celebrated "disadvantageous capital dilution effect”—or that Solow-Swan model which claims that the need for investment in yet-developing countries effectively precludes sufficient consumption. Such as is of course required by associated coalescing populations. Rather was it found that "the decades with the fastest growth of per capita income of the European countries in the last century (when they themselves were developing nations) also had been the decades with the fastest population growth (ibid p 116)." Population thus obviously having been more-than-enabled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Speak to Strangers

 

 

            Diminishing in direct proportion to modern-day solicitudes over socializing and communication has been a once vibrant and prolific conversational culture, as during a mid-twentieth century when a certain gregariousness was a stock part of life, taken for granted by all. This a first victim of the hard-nosed approach of a brave new computerized world, in which people whose paths never cross throw text or e-mails at each other in vaguely-friendly or plainly-hostile ways, strangers to a contrastingly humble conversational culture that set the stage for accomplishments and inspirations, a language-usage capable of being both homely and admirably-sophisticated, in genuine efficiencies which outperformed today's choppy, computer-modeled lingo by far. While this kind of language actually achieved a multiplier function all its own, linking myriad personal and technical complementarities gracefully together, ranging from the innovatively-frontier-defying to the pedestrian, remaining throughout marvelously faithful to persons and places, maintaining existential priorities throughout. The era having been a time when people were in many ways first beginning to live at a level of comfort and enablement admirably fit for human beings, even as sound-bites, rap-lyrics and vaguely drug-related coded symbols attend what has rapidly become a culture of exclusion, of growing economic insecurity, ridden with abortion, homelessness and mammoth expenditures on wars, the whole presenting an alien landscape to milder, friendlier, economically-fertile reciprocations of earlier years. While within this culture-of-alienation the young are taken along in stride, with an unfortunate new "don't speak to strangers" imperative have completed the circle of what is for many a frigidly isolated life, for which excuses protective-oriented regarding the very young are of course and to some extent understandably rife.

Vigorously-stated reasons for this ceaseless refrain—including the very real problems of drugs, child abduction and other such dangers—have been notably fixtures in the super-brief list of accepted moral absolutes of the past several decades, with an equally-familiar and well-trumpeted “stay within your own group” admonition being an essential corollary to its “don’t speak” cousin, and for the same reasons. But unfortunately in the long run this habit of social exclusion works a far greater inhibitive effect upon its practitioners than upon the lurking figures at whom it is commonly directed: shutting the young off from the vast bulk of mankind, trapping them within a sometimes-suffocatingly-close circle of teachers, school counselors, family and friends. The ordinary, enveloping security of normal social life, that which naturally makes not only for innovation but also for safe schools, sidewalks, homes and workplaces, part of the perennially-ingrained social memory of man: this meanwhile having been in large measure taken down, like so much else today, indirectly but all-the-more-infallibly through overt, vaunted, salary-paying modern hand-wringing solicitudes and concerns. Drastic, stop-gap social remedies at best, evincing their limited value exclusively during childhood years, these rigidly-exclusionary measures once thoroughly embraced, furthermore and perhaps even more alarmingly, remain major realities in human lives well past a youthful, vulnerable time of life. Since as Aquinas teaches us we are above all creatures of habit and those learned earliest in life are the most enduring, becoming deeply and stubbornly engrained in our personalities and our entire approach to everything and everybody around us.

Among the many troubling questions posed by such youthful/exclusionary phenomena: can there be much merit in building outdoor and indoor recreational and cultural facilities for the future use of people rigidly conditioned to “stay within their group”? Into which supposedly-ultra-safe enclaves, however and in the next instant and even among the hyper-protected young, ready admission is often and with the greatest of irony accessible to anyone who is adept at the acrobatics of sheer, generic class or political correctness. Something that can easily amount to a plain con-artistry. The kinds of things against which one’s great-grandmother was however especially well-armed. Such a blind-spot, even a lack of pious discernment, with respect to such commonly-superficial, easily-aped skills, in yet another of those devastating pitches of modern paradox, in this way often actually opens the door to very real enemies that are so feared. As at standard venues too numerous and familiar to even merit mention. While as if to add insult to injury this incurably-generic, alien bar-code of the correct, like the above-noted star-trek-oriented communicational motif, also in many cases invades the most intimate and domestic of settings: this gallingly-artificial badge having become standard issue, rendering one’s original, unique personal contributions, sometimes even at home, likely to be shrunken from as if one were some sort of leper, terrorist or hypothetical new category of the mentally ill. As the slick, smooth, standard and thus allegedly safe gather to themselves the laurels of every sort of clean-bill-of-health: leaving behind, wounded and mangled, the most sacred, sometimes indeed inarticulate, realities of intimacy, loyalty and trust. The only method in such a true madness being that these near-universal and ultimately-unpredictable exclusionary habits conspire toward creating a richly-remunerating incense which placates especially well the arrogant deities of burgeoning bureaucracy, as well as of pharmaceutical and service-outsourcing corporate control.

Indeed there is no doubt in my mind that sicknesses of all kinds of which people today are so afraid are often a direct result of such an exclusionary environment, propelling some into pathological and dangerous conditions which might have been decisively avoided within a multiplicity of standard tokens-of-attention, or a generic civic affection such as was found in abundance in the Ireland I visited in 1969. or a few customary kind words: these traditionally enabling genuine sustaining friendship to bond. Apropos to which principle this whole institution of the "profiler" suggesting something sick on both ends, as by way of a kind of socially-self-fulfilling prophesy, since as the poet once said, “no man is an island entirely unto himself” and people are deeply affected by the attitudes and even the body-language of those around them. There being in fact certain genuine duties of regard and respect toward others which we rigorously owe them in justice, and not just some patronizing sort of mercy.

Exclusion bears an especially onerous price as well in the case of the aging, as in the treatment frequently meted out to often genuinely-companionable graying elders by many younger people of today. A readily-indulged youthful condescension being capable of swiftly trans-mutating itself from mild and inconsequential beginnings into unbelievably-cynical forms of open contempt; indeed in some cases even violence. A far cry from the old humane, age-and-class reciprocity so common at mid-century. Thus for instance a certain ceaselessly-aired TV ad (of around 2007): the one about a smirking adolescent girl, waiting impatiently in a van, who makes no effort to hide her scorn for “granny”, just then approaching ever-so-slowly, shuffling up the sidewalk with her hand-held walker. A woman who in return for such unkindness only smiles back, radiant and angelic. A meek and loving response however which the valueless world of TV-commercials obviously considers to be both stupid and hysterically-funny. This TV world being a tremendously powerful formative of youthful and even adult attitudes: a fact of such common daily experience as to total abstract itself from the pro/con debate regularly sponsored by same.

In the case before us, this good woman (albeit only an actress in a surreal commercial setting) showers her marvelous womanly indulgence upon an actress-grandchild whose age-cohorts—a mere thirty or forty years from now, if not sooner—are likely to do a far-worse job of standing up to such treatment when “their turn comes around”. In forms of rejection or abuse dealt them by yet-another generation of youths: one which, if things continue as they are, will have learned such inter-personal and inter-generational lessons quite well at such able hands. Today’s youngsters no doubt likewise being destined to manifest, in their own elderly futures, an especially-grave vulnerability to such treatment, considering their typical scarce training in anything like personal independence away from close confines of family or group. A personal sovereignty that by contrast forms much of the attitude-base of virile, socially-positive and articulate if gradually-disappearing elders.

Could Alzheimer’s be more than anything else a matter of having these sensitive communicational skills and instincts in various ways “shoved back down ones throat”, so to speak? Such a sense of a truly-murderous injustice being after all experienced at a time of life when one’s “emotional energy” or ability to tolerate shock, stress or verbal attack, open or disguised, are clearly beginning to seriously wind down? Especially since the dramatic increase in the incidence of this condition has paralleled quite accurately the equally-dramatic rise of verbal and attitudinal abuse, all such forms of elderly deterioration having however been especially uncommon in cultures which, at least in the recent past, carefully stressed virtues like a universally-participated honor and respect, even a generic-yet-heart-warming affection. This in Croatian mountain village and Japanese metropolis alike. While in a way it is hardly to be wondered at that certain physical changes or other outward manifestations accompany such conversely-negative treatment, at such a physically/psychologically-vulnerable time of life, since mind and body are in many ways marvelously one, and alterations in the one can readily be expected to produce alterations in the other. And then too medicine has yet to take to heart at-all-adequately the old thirteenth century well-merited Thomistic caution with respect to a host of logical pitfalls: false axioms like the Oakham’s Razor of reductionism or the notorious "post hoc ergo propter hoc": one or another of which examples of easy logic have not-infrequently been shown to lay somewhere at the base of bio-chemical-corporation-enriching prognostic paradigms. Such dictums as a few short years before—and at the subsequent cost of immense and largely-unsung human suffering—had been accepted out-of-hand with all the prestige of new laws of science. From out of which exertions indeed, considering the many equally-lucrative spin-off conditions and sicknesses that such a laboratory-ridden world can readily bring into being, the senior citizen or anyone else for that matter can become a veritable fountainhead of profits, to sustain a sacrosanct, largely-pharmaceuticals-driven, sorely-pressed stock market. (Note of December 1, 2014: This diagnosis on a linkage of elder abuse, pharmaceutical companies and Alzheimer's has proven out in the most disturbing possible way, an issue discussed in detail on our website since this writing of 2007.)

Obviously the close circle of friends and other especially-private things are in their own right critically-important aspects of our lives: being as well some of the few treasures we have left after vaunted social filtering processes have taken their inevitable gradualistic, cumulative and habit-based human toll, alike in social indifference, condescension and contempt. Yet it is also important to point out that if such “nuclear” and other close ties do not naturally allow for a development into extended spheres of interest and involvement then they become a form of personal suicide as political and truly-social creatures. While there can also be a yet more disturbing and suffocating note of nepotism—or even the horrors of a sort of ambient incest—in modern hermetic social confines: a little-spoken-of calamity that one cannot help imagining is becoming increasingly-more-common today. While it is a contrastingly-vigorous atmosphere that breeds things like true economic development and productive innovation, things quite-typically found amid the turbulent confluence of “domains that are furthest apart”, according to words of Poincare, cited elsewhere on one of these pages. Those formed in such a by-contrast almost barbarously-pristine, innately-entrepreneurial environment not-surprisingly being found, in a truer sort of sophistication, to shrink noticeably back, in an equal-but-opposite impulse, from cramped, unhealthy and truly-backward social configuration. A phenomenon attested by a flight of plants or patent-holders, for one, to the more-expansive organizational-milieu of Eastern Europe or Guinea-Bissau, (2014 note: or Africa). These healthier forms of organization predictably much derided here, in the veritable home-turf of exclusion, as characterized by a counterproductive “cronyism”.

Really, rather than going to public and semi-public places just to stay within our ultra-select group, frowning territorially at others, we might just as well visit in each other's homes: perhaps securely behind ever-higher walls of exclusionary gated communities, where unwanted invaders can easily and with court-proven relative-impunity be gunned down. Where we can all then quite safely go mad, no doubt with well-paid, security-conscious keepers of straight-jackets close-at-hand: hovering far from other lesser beings, even as we are shrunken from by supposed-betters even more firmly and impressively thus ensconced. While we are also much-more-easily dealt with and targeted in this way by the great corporate marketing tyrannosaurus: hardly a likely recommendation among the sanely-self-preservative, and by other creatures even more sinister. And likewise in our visions that this sort of thing is making us upwardly mobile we are ignoring the fact that the whole tortuous, intricate, unpredictable exclusionary process is truly rendering us powerless, certainly politically sterile, and lamentably dependent as well upon the ideas and ambitions of our own immediate and often-enough short-sighted class, interest-group, or homeowner's association.

My own recent experiences in pursuing university studies, after years of absence from the academic scene, has of late made me especially aware of all such things, having myself been incurably shocked to learn about the inscrutable Hammurabi's code of unwritten rules of today's student-body prejudices and exclusions: a tangled growth of do's and don'ts that thrives uncannily-well amid supposedly-libertine halls of ivy, in a sense easily making the segregationists at “Ole Miss” or the University of Arkansas of the 50s or early 60s look like models of Christian charity. Today's students being obsessively-careful whom they communicate with in the faintest way: these well-past-puberty, little-likely-to-be-abducted confreres found quite often and sometimes in the most startling sorts of ways reacting to others as if they were a danger, amid thousands milling around on all sides. Or what is perhaps worse, as if to bolster or dramatize this defensive stand, even sometimes treating many of these others as frank or scarcely-acknowledged objects of contempt, as if thereby to scare them away, five year old style.

True, there may often be little point in just accosting someone out of the blue, but what I am speaking of is an unsettling social imperviousness, and an incredible lack of simple courtesy which has overtaken these young people: something obviously quite unconnected to any proper or sedate “sense of distance”. A world in which all the overwrought, ultra-correct good manners about holding the door open for someone twenty feet behind you are more than matched by the imperious frowns and belligerent refusals of apology at grim contests over going through the same door simultaneously from opposite directions. During which misadventures the near-spill of one contestant might easily and with rare satisfaction be smirked over by an opponent who in another setting is a very paragon of ceremonious, indeed-almost-obsequious courtesy. In a young person's world too in which walking, standing or sitting around talking on their cell-phones is to a considerable degree the generalized substitute for a genuine social life. A universe-all-its-own which however doesn’t prevent you on occasion from being startled out of your lonesome reverie by the impression that one of these social hermits is actually speaking to you. Seemingly propelling his/her voice toward you—often-enough in fact looking right at you—as they pass you by on some broad campus hallway or walkway. A misimpression which is only dispelled when you finally see the tiny cell-phone, lodged inconspicuously in the crotch of his/her neck, or held to the side of a youthful face as invisibly as if its possessor were striking a thoughtful posture, index finger to cheek, seeming to finally and happily have recognized you as a friend from among the crowd. Eyes of course sparkling with that sell-yourself salesmanship they have learned so well from their boomer parents and teachers. Job-and-advancement-seeker’s skills which served to leave less-advantaged—and less-theatrical—high school cohorts behind them amid vaunted flights. Paragons however clinging in actuality and for dear life—and with no courage or spirit necessary—to their group.

Little do these youngsters know—and what is yet more disturbing, even less do they seem to care—that in such a case much of the whole meaning and purpose of attending a university is gone. Having been robbed of a deep and fundamental significance, this by way of years of the breathless attitude and danger-perception smithing of imposing guides of all kinds. College rather being authentically conceived of—in its own prominent place among other learning experiences—as a place where people of a wide variety of interests, ideas, personalities and walks of life become face-to-face closely-engaged and acquainted with one another. Again, according to Poincare's axiom about the cross-fertility of domains that are furthest apart: the higher-education experience thus most decidedly and indeed by definition not being containable within some meticulously-circumscribed group. And if we can't have this reality in the teaming universe of a university, how will we ever have it anywhere else; or, within such a boundlessly-stuffy scenario, how can there for that matter ever ultimately be any genuine prospect for world peace?

Then too even when you watch these very fine young people—in many ways the very hope of the future—supposedly socializing “in their group”—there is still much to be concerned about. For one thing, you see very little of the sort of deep and earnest exchange among colleagues and confreres such as was so common among undergrads from early Thirteenth Century days of Oxford or the Sorbonne, or even during that time in the mid-sixties when still-quite-sane sorts of youthful boomers were first undergrads, among whose comparatively- conservative number I myself would have been found. Much of social life among students today being by contrast entirely trivial and un-enduring in content, and invariably associated with a labored, threadbare but ever-mandatory atmosphere of comedy: typically-enough amid a much-touted networking over class projects and upcoming tests. Anything much beyond this too often being relegated to the province of those with “diversity-oriented” or “unconventional” lifestyles, for which we older folk might well have the retort: “who is this indispensable person these youngsters must always be wrapped up with in such ostensibly-ecstatic reveries over the cell-phone?” While one's own wish to pursue the old deeply-rutted but ultimately-much-surer road of shared scholarly insights and the profound, morally-pure, personal attachment which it so easily and naturally brings in its train—something which goes far beyond stock, unconvincing, Simpsonesque comic interludes—is likely to find one inexorably classed as a kind of species apart. I am only happy that I know enough of life to be able to see which shoe goes on which foot: while I fear much for those fine young people who have no such far-more-essential exclusionary abilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unspoken Language of Success

 

 

There is a certain dance-routine of the up-and-coming that is commonly tapped-out at public meetings: whether those weekly routines of city councils or others about housing, zoning or other suburban or inner city policy concerns. But this particular kind of soft-shoe, rather than using top hat or cane, is mostly comprised of a series of facial and gestural benchmarks of smooth, well-choreographed unanimity. These indicating to the initiated the politically-correct course which the tabled agenda requires, and upon which upwardly-mobile bread might best be buttered. Veritable ballet numbers somewhat overdrawn which are already well under way by the time these meeting begin, containing introductory cues little-if-at-all perceptible to outsiders: a sweeping category which takes in essentially everyone aside from the board-members or officials themselves and a few “regulars”. Subtle indicators of agreement being of such sort which the adept are well trained to recognize: be they gracefully-raised-brows, upwardly-rolling eyes, highly-significant sniffs, nods, sighs, coughs and twitches of mustache. Smiles and frowns die instant deaths on fluid faces, coming up remarkably well to intimate close-ups of sensational morning serial dramas. This while a rare degree of poise shows itself especially well in a coy refusal to be overly-cooperative—that unforgivable sin of the public meeting which would betray lamentably-clumsy flaw-of-form—as critical items are brought up one by one for discussion. Of course too there are the long pauses for dramatic effect, during which these star performers can best gauge the impact of their latest aerial flights.

At one such gathering having to do with housing, during pre-meeting preliminaries, in the middle of an impressive flourish of expensive soft-leather attaché cases, the season’s rage, delicately lifted on the table for all to see, an acquaintance of mine, more of my own class and list-of-priorities, an apprehensive newcomer with a scuffed-up imitation-leather valise, took a seat and was destined to be studiedly ignored throughout the coming deliberations: yet ironically it was mostly for him that facial and gestural acrobats would that day perform, having seen one-another’s turns and tumbles innumerable, weary times before. After patiently listening to and viewing a long line of all-but-incomprehensible yet highly-meaningful feints and subterfuges, the newcomer, thinking naïvely that he had stumbled into a genuinely public meeting, finally plucked up his courage and disingenuously attempted to make a contribution. A gesture which was to serve as a long-alluded-to finale among these leaders and seasoned meeting-goers: a coup fatal lacking only a clash of cymbals. His words being instantly greeted by postures of incomprehension and dismay: several collective arms being extended in bewilderment, a hand held to an especially-stricken breast: with the new and indispensable category of terrorism having scurried across faces ready like wax for the hot iron, adding pathos to alarm. Thespian displays readily detected by the intelligent and sensitive: which our visitor indeed was. Of course, the perceived intruder could only apologetically mumble a few words, a token bow to Old Glory, a wave of a sort of white flag of notional retreat, before hunkered-down staring eyes. Eagerly embracing the welcome alternative of his obscure bunker of non-involvement, never more to reemerge.

The unpleasant interruption having been dealt with, the ensemble finds other themes for their vaulting flights: facial and gestural leaps worthy of a Nureyev, flawlessly executed through the rambling verbiage until each and all appear strangely exhausted. One might even think some great, meaningful work had been accomplished. Our visitor left without remembering much of anything that had been said—although I don’t really think that much was said. I do remember that things like in-fills or inclusive zoning of any sort were adjudged to be an exceptionally touchy issue.

Later that night, on the way home, this guy with the scuffed-up valise and his wife picked up a homeless fellow, an Indian, a member of a perennially-dispossessed race, one with their typical combination of powerful physique and kindly, sensitive face and manner. But it seems that once many years ago he had had a misunderstanding with a police officer—having been falsely accused of some disorder by a third party—a “white man” all-too-often instinctively believed in such cases—and for his hesitations to receive the proffered handcuffs had had the back of his skull beaten in with a night-stick. Or even with one of those even-more-convincing devices that the police nowadays have so readily at their disposal. Perhaps vaguely after the manner of highly-photogenic, club-wielding police officers amply televised not too long ago: expending their mortal skills on a minority in terms of obesity. Of course, this did understandably little good for the golden opportunities of a man of his race, contributing significantly to his present homeless condition. He was also crippled up in other ways something terrible, having on another occasion also been beaten with an iron bar of some kind, the same beating in which his wife was killed by a predatory group of people on some dark street-corner. A woman who after 20-some years he still cannot forget. While it seems that this is often the kind of singularly-ill-publicized fate that awaits those who find themselves out on the street: no doubt especially if they have a fine physique, or display a refinement or intelligence that is above the common run, thus provoking an easily-sated envy from a far-lesser breed. So bad had been the beating which this Indian had sustained that his bones had been unable to mend properly, so that he was understandably fearful of being left that night to the raw wind of that especially-cold Arizona winter evening, which would have caused him excruciating pain along ragged seams of the old fractures. But this guy was really one of the most uncomplaining of men, and was in fact a source of rare humor and cheer to a couple of weary people at the end of a long, hard day. Out of their little bit of money they bought him a room for the night: since shelter—at least of a kind not overseen by the bluntly-censorious—had proven difficult to procure for him in any other way.

This Indian will never succeed at the body-language of success. Even when he was still young and magnificently agile—as one could see he once had been by the degree of grace he still displayed to an astonishing degree, crutches, broken limbs and all—he would never have been able to master its subtle, complicated intricacies. Nor would he have been the least interested in doing so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Demise of the Navajo Shepherding Culture:

A Study in Government Interference

 

            Note of December 2014: This article has been corrected on some particulars after the recent reading of (1) Espinosa, J. Manuel, The Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1696 and the Franciscan Missions in New Mexico. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988; (2) Horgan, Paul, Lamy of Santa Fe: His Life and Times. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975; and (3) Dominguez, Fray Francisco Atanasio, The Missions of New Mexico, 1776 (primary-source contemporary documents). Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1956.

 

            When compared against what was to follow, the Navajo had been treated with the utmost humanity by Spanish colonials of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: many of these Spanish-speaking invaders of tribal domains being indeed themselves Indians, coming from regions near Mexico City. Settler-families whom exploring imperial soldiers brought with them, largely to serve as channels of advanced knowledge and development among native peoples, pursuing in such ways the broader imperial aim of promoting agriculture and enterprise. Pioneers who as a corollary also provided the hides, blankets, food and other goods and services needed by Imperial cavalrymen. While quite to the contrary the Dineh's first real acquaintance with the Anglo-Americans—some four decades after Spaniards had been supplanted by revolutionaries—provides us with a perfect study in extremes—with these Athabascans finding themselves rudely awakened from their carefree, alternately raiding and agricultural life, rounded up en masse by handle-bar-mustached American cavalrymen, and deported across New Mexico to a fittingly-bleak place on the border of its eastern salt flats called variously Fort Sumner or Bosque Redondo. Conditions in the arid moonscape at Bosque Redondo, the kind of home the U.S. Government was so good at finding for Indian tribes, were so bad that starvation was a reality for some and imminent for all within a year of the forced march: especially in their nearly complete lack of that which—in contrast to the bison-oriented tribes of the plains—had sustained them physically and economically already for more than a century—their flocks of long haired Spanish Churro sheep. These flocks having originated and been maintained thereafter through incessant raiding of noted Spanish settlements along the Rio Grande from Socorro to Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Fort Sumner too was a place where understandably-enough it was all but impossible to grow crops: an activity, in another divergence from pop-academic dogma, all nomads have always done a certain amount of, with little need of others to show them how. This having been true even of the much-maligned Huns, who were likewise little lacking in late-ancient hyper-critics with the usual tiresome exaggerations about aboriginal barbarities, with these one-time Mongolian steep-dwellers quickly adding newly-acquired refinements to an already-ample native cultivation, whether cultural or agrarian. Censures found in writings of ancient chroniclers being uncannily-similar to those voiced two thousand years later in American newspapers and around armed-to-the-teeth immigrant settler campfires. (J. Otto Maenchen-Helfen, The World of the Huns; Studies in Their History and Culture. Edited by Max Knight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973). Indeed, the Federal Government's consistent supplying of provisions, with herds of cattle being driven from long distances to keep famine at bay, was to prove a severe problem of logistics at Bosque Redondo. (Roberto Salmon, The Disease Complaint at Bosque Redondo {1864-68}, article in vol. 9 of The Indian Historian {American Indian Historical Society}; also, Haley, J. Evetts, Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949.) So that finally the Feds did something they were rarely to do for other tribes and never again on such a generous scale: in 1868 they allowed the Navajos to return to their original tribal lands. And even though they weren’t officially allowed to resettle all of their old territories, they were permitted to occupy about one-half of them. But the irrepressible Navajos were soon spilling westward as well into the other parts of their beloved, hauntingly-beautiful domain of centuries. (Garrick Bailey and Robert Glenn Bailey, A History of the Navajos: the Reservation Years. (Santa Fe, N.M.: The School of American Research Press, 1986, p. 1-35).

            Instantly, the returning tribesmen were vigorously at the work of resettlement, if along developmental lines laid out by their American conquerors. Fort Sumner had naturally enough had a profound psychological effect upon the Navajo—a place where they had been “broken” like horses to the condition of a subject people—just as in the ultimate case of essentially all the other tribes under the new Anglo rule—yet even so it was with their characteristically positive attitude that they took up their new way of life. So they farmed, as in fact they had already done on an impressive scale since before the advent of the Europeans, and tended the decimated herds, some of which they had brought back and forth with them on their grueling trips to and from Ft. Sumner, during which they were moved in small groups. Hence “a count in 1869, after their return to their homeland, found 8,510 of the Navajo together to receive gifts of 30,000 sheep (no doubt from a still-locally-prevalent churro stock)—and 2000 goats.” (The Disease Complaint at Bosque Redondo). Thus illustrated being the rapidity with which relatively-self-sufficient herder-tribesmen, only some few years after having made their initial acquaintance with Uncle Sam, were reduced to the condition of paupers, in a bringing-down by way of sudden, artificially-induced catastrophe that would prove a stock sequence-of-events for basically all the tribes under the United States government. An enervating toccata—this despoliation and subsequent gratuity—this beggaring-of-Indians had in fact already long before been witnessed in other such forced marches, as in the resettlement of the Cherokee, Creeks, Seminoles and others to Oklahoma, the first major installment of which took place some thirty-five years earlier, starting in the early 1830s (McReynolds, Edwin C., The Seminoles. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972. Also, Foreman, Grant, Advancing the Frontier: 1830-1860. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1933). A grand displacement which had been surrounded by an equally-impressive mythology of Indian savagery: those mostly-fables which had attended every act of native self defense since the days of the Mayflower. To the standard accompaniment of evangelical righteousness and cleverly-veiled anti-Catholicism: this latter being invariably the Christianity-of-choice of the American Indian. A native now under a new kind of white man who indeed presented himself economically/institutionally, and sometimes even personally, as a kind of a god, in a hubris unfairly and inaccurately attributed to a Cortez by comparison really quite humble and self-restrained.

            In the usual event and not surprisingly, diminishing herd populations and life-threateningly-inadequate harvests greeted such unprecedented population-thinning exoduses and settlement efforts, but the exceptional case of the Navajo tribal diligence, even among many others native epics similarly heroic, met with ample praise from their Indian Service agents, in acknowledgments of a magnificently-successful tribal drive toward material success and solvency. All these efforts finally bearing fruit, when “in the late 1870’s the economy of the Navajos started to show signs of self-sufficiency” (Ibid, p. 49-50), this barely ten years after the near-fatal march. The date in fact marking the time when government rations came to an end: this far sooner than in any other case.

            The rapidity too of a Navajo subsequent rise to a super-added attainment of an actual prosperity is at least as astonishing. Subsistence levels require a ratio of humans to sheep of 1:40 to 1:50 and for the Navajos by the late 1880’s and early 1890’s that ratio had grown to between 1:70 and 1:95. (Ibid, p. 95). A surplus, too—despite pungent odors and rustic setting, and as any Hun would long ago have known without giving it a thought, which embodied a real, highly-negotiable form of wealth. A commodity by contrast becoming less and less common to all of us today: surrounded as we are rather by our myriad glistening, treacherously-popping asset bubbles, and the baubles of a technology fast becoming an all-determining end in itself, with real wealth, health or comfort subject to a sort of frightfully diminishing returns. Indeed, the sheep for the Navajo even stood good as a medium of exchange, much after the manner of stores of tobacco for pre-Revolutionary-War period Virginia planters: a true wealth in many ways far more substantial and dependable than the speculative boom or bust even then going on among stock traders from New York to San Francisco.

            The Navajo preferred herding to farming but they were exclusively encouraged toward the latter by the government: unfortunately through measures that were throughout poorly conceived and executed. For instance, in 1886 Congress appropriated impressive monies for the development of water resources on the reservation which resulted in the building or development of 14 dams, 15 springs, and 9 irrigation ditches, some of considerable length. But “the ditches were evidently built without any regard to utility, durability, or knowledge of the subject”, while other such projects also met with little success because of congressional unwillingness to appropriate sufficient amounts to see them through to completion in a thoroughgoing and professional manner. (Ibid, p. 93, quoted from RCIA 1889: 258). While anyone familiar with the strange saga of U.S. Government/Indian relations also suspects the usual rewarding of unscrupulous and/or mal-adept political favorites with contracts for such public works, something that of course continues today on an unabated, infinitely-larger scale, in many other policy-realms as well: as in the notable case of the new American/Israeli reservation in Iraq. Or even in reservation-franchise grocery stores where the choices are few, the produce is wilted and the prices are high.

            But despite the less-than-optimal expansion of farming—largely because of rocky and unproductive soil—an elaborate economic culture soon developed: actually only an adaptation of that which had long existed between the Navajo, the Mexican settlements, and other Indian tribes before Fort Sumner. But now American industry was a part of this many-sided trading system: from which the tribe obtained tools and other manufactured items. While buckskins, pottery, baskets and other such goods meanwhile continued to be gotten through an immemorial and as-yet-somehow fairly intact inter-tribal network with the Utes of Colorado and the Shoshone of Utah, with grains still obtainable as well from area Mexicans and Hopis (A History of the Navajos, p. 96). So that not surprisingly in all of this the cultural conservatism of the Navajos remained evident—as by their trading almost exclusively for those American goods that were functionally equivalent to tools and other articles they had traditionally used. While they “rejected items that forced them to adopt new methods of production”.

            This stubborn adherence to their old ways—no matter how innately-ecological and eminently-functional—was to be a source of increasingly-bitter irritation to the Indian Service, as the BIA was for a time called, among functionaries whose philosophy remained for the most part rigidly assimilationist. (Ibid, same page.) Which for the Indian or any other distinct cultural group largely spelled an induction into the huge and impersonal scale economies of an increasingly-global economic system: rather than a simple introduction to showers, electricity and refrigerators. The very self-reliant economic success of the Navajos being both the source of their independence and that which rankled these officials most greatly, engaging a plethora of productive elements of which the tribe retained complete control: all this far different from a corporation-catering regulatory regime of the USA which has proven the remorseless, initiative-inhibiting ruin of the traditional family-owned farm or firm. While a constant badgering toward conformity in hair length and the wearing of the white man’s clothing were likewise part and parcel of the rote behavioral anonymity which the amorphous global system relentlessly brought in it wake. Navajo native Americans having back then in the late nineteenth century typically been reproached with “doing as they pleased” and “acting too much like Navajos” (Ibid, p. 99, quoted from Parsons to Atkins, Apr 26, 1886, RBIA LR GR. Also, Ibid, 106-111.) largely because of such very styles, as well as the many ceremonies with which Navajo life was so full.

            But silver-smithing was the fitting cap on a picture of shrewd economic self-sufficiency among the Dineh—the Navajo word meaning “the People”—that populist appellation which since the days of the Huns and before has always been the literal translation for the national name among primitive peoples everywhere. Such metal-working skills being dramatically built up in these years of the late nineteenth century: an artistry at which the Navajo became extremely-accomplished and remain so to this day. But yet more impressively still this marvelous facility with the fashioning of metal, occasionally including ironwork, was also employed as a dependable insurance against herding failures (Ibid, p. 98), while equally significant to the history of their economic advancement was the fact that the “surrounding Indian and white population showed a strong preference for Navajo blankets over the cheaper but more-loosely-woven Mexican product.” (Ibid, p. 57). However this first vigorous experience of material independence was fated to come to an abrupt end with the onset of the extended drought of from 1893 to 1902: another period of intense suffering and near starvation for the Navajo. So that by the year 1900 their herds of sheep dropped to a human/sheep ratio of 1:19, far below the subsistence level. The problem was that during periods of drought grazing-land naturally produces less grass and other vegetation, so that more acreage was needed to graze the same amount of livestock: this all the while adding insult to misfortune would be the issue of land rights that had been brewing since the first influx of truly-unmanageable Anglo and European immigrants, that trickle which turned into a torrent soon after the building of a transcontinental railroad right alongside the Navajo southern border. The story of their treatment regarding this land issue is so important to the understanding of their circumstances from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries that I quote at length with respect to their legal position:

 

            “In retrospect, it is evident that Navajos had as much legal right as anyone to settle on public lands (outside their reservations). The Act of March 3, 1875 clearly stated that non-reservation Indians had a right to settle on the public domain and file for homesteads (Strickland, 1982: 130). Indians also qualified for homesteads under the act of May 14, 1880, and as early as 1881, agent Eastman informed off-reservation Navajos of their eligibility (Note: from the subsequent context the term “off-reservation Navajos” seems plainly to refer to the fact that an Indian could not at one and the same time live both on and off the reservation—rather than meaning that there was some essential difference in status between “on-” and “off-” reservation Indians). In 1882 C.H. Howard, an inspector for the Department of the Interior, recommended that the Indian Service help Navajos acquire and improve homesteads on the public domain (Howard to Secretary of the Interior, October 25, 1882, RBIA LR GR). Two years later, when white settlers began evicting Navajos from the south bank of the San Juan, Indian homesteading rights were recognized once again (Bowman to CIA {Commissioner of Indian Affairs}, September 27, 1884, RBIA LR GR). If any doubt remained about the legal status of off-reservation Navajos, the General Allotment Act of 1887 stated that any non-reservation Indian could receive an allotment on the public domain (Strickland 1982: 131). In spite of this legislation, Navajos living on the public domain were periodically ordered back to the reservation, and soldiers escorted the more reluctant (Bailey and Bailey 1982: 182-89).” (Ibid, p. 90).

            Thus did the torrent of manifest-destiny-oriented intruders continue unabated, with the discovery of artesian water around the southeastern corner of the reservation in particular calling forth a sea of sheep owned by white herders, livestock allowed by them to graze on surrounding lands without any regard to the ownership rights of the Indians and without paying any fees either to them or to any branch of government. (Ibid, p. 112 {Stacher c. 1940:1}). However in what seems a rare and happy departure on behalf of the Navajos and away from the usual Indian Service indifference or condescension, the agents of those days showed themselves singularly protective of native rights: even if the range of practical measures open to them in this respect, for the time being, was practically nil. Thus did Superintendent Shelton of the Northern Navajo Agency tell a meeting of local angry whites that “they had misunderstood the purpose of a reservation. Reservations were to keep the white man off, not the Indian on.” (Ibid, p. 112-113, quoted from ‘Bailey Field Notes’).

            But as much as we would like to credit Shelton with the noblest and most courageous of qualities, such language has a very familiar ring to it, to anyone who has to any extent at all studied the history of Indian/Government affairs. For since the days of the removals of Seminoles, Cherokee, Nez Perces and Cheyenne, agent verbal intrepidity on behalf of the Indians seems to have waxed strongest when hope was weakest of thereby accomplishing anything. This while countless tell-tale signs of qualms of conscience regularly punctuate other records and narratives from the period, no doubt accounting for many-another singular flight of ultimately-fruitless oratory (McReynolds, Edwin C., The Seminoles. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972). Thus all through the eloquence another substantial arm of the Federal Government, the General Land Office, was bending to local pressure and curtailing Navajo acquisition of allotments by withholding patents-of-possession: and this, as gatherable from the above summary of Indian land-holding legal status, with nothing resembling sufficient cause. (Ibid, p. 117).

            Again being forced by largely-pre-engineered circumstances, which are ever the allies of economic imperialists the world over, the Navajo, in order to survive at all, was forced to become more deeply integrated into the broader “American way of life”: this being the inevitable end result of the prolonged drought and its crippling economic effects, when combined with the aggressive tactics of white ranchers and settlers and the negative or chimerical policies of the government in regard to Indian rights. Even as the same self-preservative instinct also required a temporary renewed dependence on government rations and other aid: a recourse again nonetheless to prove of short duration, as the by-now-familiar Navajo resourcefulness and self-reliance was again in evidence in their securing of wage labor: if ever with the same self-defining, culturally-conservative goals in mind. Most pointedly that of rebuilding their drought-reduced herds so as to be able to continue their traditional, solidly-dependable means of support. This increase of outside employment being eventually accompanied by the happy return of rain—and a concomitant economic upswing—in the opening years of the Twentieth Century (Ibid, p. 105). While nonetheless the increased contact and economic interdependence with the society around them inevitably brought in its train considerable cultural adaptations in matters of dress, especially among the men in things like cowboy boots and hats, jeans, and so on, and even a gradually-increasing resignation to the shortening of the long hair to which from time immemorial they had been deeply attached. Again giving evidence of the Navajo’s truly rational ability to adapt where necessary by a kind of natural gradualism: even if such changes were counterbalanced by a tapering off of wage labor (Ibid, p. 158) once the herds began solidly to recover. The Navajo for one thing not yet having learned the white man’s obsession with money: having rather retained that ancient wisdom which prefers to be surrounded by real wealth and its far-more-attractive, dependable and renewable assets and tokens.

            By such stubborn, white-settler-resented tendencies, clothed in culturally-specific forms, the Navajo—much indeed like the Tennessee immigrant factory worker in the 1940s and 50s in the North—fit poorly into that behavioral conformity which would increasingly become the leitmotif of the American employment scene as the new century progressed. While anyone back then who understood the dominant underlying trends in American society—as supported by such things as a highly-convenient Spencerian White racial supremacy just then in full swing, faithfully echoed in Federal Government attitudes and policies—must have expected that things just over the horizon boded ill for these Navajo wealth-producing paragons of the desert and high tableland. Auguring a concentration-of-forces which readily converged toward finding excuses to seize Indian lands and/or resources. Yet incredibly-enough acting as a kind of temporary reprieve was another development that was a stroke of Providence for the Navajo, in the spontaneous and unforeseeable arrival of the craze for Indian goods: this coming about in the most timely way right at the turn of the century, in the midst of drought and settler-invasion-related ills. A commercial phenomenon which has continued to this day, if in a fluctuating pattern. Navajo rugs—really only the traditional, thick, churro wool blankets they had been making and trading now for at least 150 years—were the biggest seller in this nationwide trend, by far outstripping the products of any other tribes—indeed probably of all the others put together. While their fine skill at silver-smithing saw a similar expansion of profitability from the same growing category of purchasers. Yet rug sales only drew the government’s tiringly familiar negative-reflex-reaction in the form of a veritable badgering toward the bulk wool trade: that which to the Navajo was only an ancillary enterprise being an especially big-ticket item in the officially-preferred world commodity market of the time. (cf. Chamberlin, William Henry, Japan Over Asia. Boston: Brown, Little and Company, 1939 for some related insights on this global market of early-to-mid-century, its coercive potential mobilized to determine destinies not only of Indians but of distant nations as well). The U.S. Government being ever-responsive to commercial forces bent on large scale enterprise: that to which subsistence-income peoples are ever driven by the modern state: under inevitable pretexts of “advancement” and the dropping of “backward ways”. Yet this “industrial” recourse is commonly a dead-end for the native culturally, and quite often economically as well: operating as “emerging” peoples so often do under numerous and varied “learning curve” disadvantages, barriers indeed typically of a sort which are prejudicially kept intact by the very people who urge the “primitives” most vehemently in such a direction. Handicaps which can readily preclude any deep and sustained penetration of hotly-advocated markets. However, as on several occasions beforehand, Navajo skill at business and marketing was for an incredibly lengthy time a worthy match for the barrage of government pressures, as taking due advantage of market fluctuations “rug production increased when wool prices were relatively low, and decreased when wool prices were high”. So that a Navajo family could thus continue to weave all or part of their wool into rugs, which brought a higher price per pound than raw wool.” (Ibid, p. 152).

            With the commencement of three decades of growing prosperity, after the noted turn-of-the-century drought, the People naturally found an expanded need for earnings beyond that required for subsistence living: this largely because of their growing demand for better quality tools and equipment, as well as for those modern niceties which, being after all quite human, they began to take for granted. Factors which joined forces with an evident tribal entrepreneurial instinct (Ibid, p. 179). Thus during these same years did Navajo coal mine operators become increasingly important figures in the regional economy, while a similar contribution was made by tribal haulers, who ultimately dealt on an interstate scale, at first with teams and later trucks. These and other developments amounted to an economic diversification that was joined as well by a significant number of trading post operations: the first two of the above ventures being ground-breaking entrepreneurial initiatives for the area, hardly a sign of backwardness in anyone's dictionary. While the unfortunate disappearance of Navajo trading post ventures by the end of the period was likely due to the Indian’s inability to secure conventional lines of credit that were no doubt quite readily available to others (Ibid, p. 161-163).

            Not at all surprisingly, “because of their reputation as hard workers, Navajos did not have trouble finding work. In 1920 offers from prospective employers surpassed the number of Navajos seeking work” (Ibid, p. 160). Thus not surprisingly—the draw of a steady weekly paycheck and the things it could buy being a well-known and relentless one—during the 1920’s a new level of permanence in wage-employment became evident, signaling an ongoing Navajo gradual—rather than precipitous or servile—adaptation to the society around them. Meanwhile Dineh experimentation with cross-breeding among their herds in many cases produced an improvement in marketability without significant loss of subsistence value. The latter naturally being a factor that was crucial in any realistic attempt to survive on the arid, basic-resource-hungry high plains of New Mexico and north-eastern Arizona. Especially important in this sheep-herding scenario were qualities like durability of the animals in harsh climatic conditions, the ability to thrive on the sparse plant life native to the region, and such matters as easy lambing in these circumstances as well. The many discrimination-related disadvantages too made it essential to the Tribe’s very continued existence to cultivate these qualities in its herds: and thus to be able to withdraw to a subsistence level for lengthy periods of time. Even if among randomly alternating groups and individuals, and according to a sliding scale in the number of participants, as the ogre of prejudice ever works its erratic will, according to its twisted nature descending unpredictably upon the unwary, the newly vulnerable. Or in some insatiable vengeance upon some new manifestation of tribal excellence or pride, any organized collective self-defense against which however would in effect become strictly forbidden. Being branded as a heinous species of the “un-American”, or of weak personal character, this within a developing false “American way of life” which would ultimately prove to be nothing more than the progressive repudiation of true values: whether Christian, Navajo or simply human.

            But in all these stop-gap efforts at survival was the tremendously-fertile, eye-to-the-future realism of the People ever forthcoming, a quality however and in fact quite standard among Indians of most tribes: a resourcefulness which sparse Southwestern Anglo populations could not for the moment impede with the same degree of intensity among the Navajo as was being experienced by others on other reservations during that period. Generic Indian assets that even now regularly reassert themselves in the face of tremendous odds, and under circumstances which, if in more-subtle ways, are today even more brutal than those of most of the nineteenth century. Tribes which in the vast majority of cases only accept defeat of any kind when it is with irresistible force imposed from without. Flowery corporate, court, regulatory or legislative verbal “advocacy” camouflage notwithstanding.

            But the Federal Government continued to stoutly contest the unbeatable Navajo breeding formula: rare attributes so congenial to the environment in which the People lived being gradually diminished by the ceaseless compulsory government introduction of other, more conventional stock. Those largely with more-acceptably-market-oriented meat/cash values. Freedom being found here to be a rare commodity when it comes to the economically and motivationally vital: no-holds-barred, much-made-over license in public and private infidelity and immorality notwithstanding. An ultimate victim of such a killing-field being invariably that localized self-sufficiency—an immemorial, sustainable breeder of families and nations—which the soil-salting, intrinsically-anti-life monoliths of capitalism cannot possibly tolerate.

            Nonetheless, showing once again his uncanny sense of enterprise, the wily Navajo—like a kind of Chinese trader—was to turn to good effect even the unwelcome government breeding techniques. Although he must have sensed through all of this—dealing with such an overseer as Uncle Sam—that his luck was running out in these livestock policy diversionary maneuvers. Thus did he continue to supplement a growing market in wool and feeder lambs by a continued exploitation of a fluctuating but worldwide demand for his distinctively designed rugs: many of which products of this period now hang in prominent museums. For the distinctive qualities of Churro wool were in some ways just as stubborn as the native herders who so strenuously plied its many uses: not really to be effectively “bred out” until the later government livestock programs of the 1930’s, to be dealt with presently. Among these happy peculiarities being those which made it particularly suitable for hand rug weaving—as in its extra-long fibers and amazing lack of oiliness. So that the Navajo retained—and in odd ways here and there even improved upon—a distinct advantage over their competitors in the herding industry (Ibid, p. 180).

            However and as the history of the American Indian amply demonstrates, this is the kind of advantage that has a way of backfiring in a host of bewildering and murderous consequences. First of all because capitalism—that which would gradually gain possession of the very soul of the United States, and uproot every other loyalty—conceives of vital resources first and foremost only as a kind of fodder for the profits of the stock market, in a maddeningly-round-about and wasteful resource-management which scorns the authentic micro-marginal concern so much at the heart of things like sanely-conceived agriculture, or for that matter true productive commerce of any kind. With eyes only to some extractive profit-margin, exploiting the gains of technology, all-the-while unjustly taking all the credit for same: as if genius needed the interest-driven whip of such a taskmaster to make it capable of the subtle and mostly-interior processes of invention. All the while there is actually at work here at a deeper level a ritual-ablution elitism which will not “dirty its hands” with work of any kind, but rather regards as inalienable privilege of a certain predestined segment of society to thus effortlessly milk “the wealth of nations”. A supposedly-sainted commercial value-system ceaselessly proving itself to have all the resourcefulness—let alone integrity—of the predatory wolf or coyote, or at better moments of the squandering riverboat gambler.

            There is much evidence that the destructive interference that was so soon to descend upon The People found its first impetus from politically very powerful groups of neighboring economic rivals (The Navajos and the New Deal, p. 56-57), these invariably motivated as well by a modern radical kind of racism which historically found its first real origins in the same capitalism. While many of these jealous neighbors undoubtedly had nascent corporate connections of their own, livestock-industry-related or otherwise, finding as one does on examination that during the 1920s and 30s there was a certain Senator Chavez among the local-color, Navajo-baiting, Anglo/Mexican bloc, a man allied with other regional power-brokers spitefully bent on frustrating even the most desultory or inconsequential of the schemes of Collier and Fryer on behalf of the Navajos. Let alone the Tribe's own truly constructive goals and targets.

            Today’s Neo-Conservative legislators, not to be outdone by early-to-mid-century ideological counterparts in the livestock reduction saga recounted here, in certain connections wax eloquent over the plights of tribal peoples: at politically-critical times, as was heard during recent Congressional testimony, Republican kingpins pointing in veritable tear-choked tones to the spectacle of subsistence-oriented lives rendered insupportable in the face of an all-devouring global system. However after all the unexpected theatrics, only the same old New Right ad hoc solutions are invariably offered, basically involving an acceptance of things as-they-stand, or even as they deteriorate from day to day. Such a brave approach as is recommended to the Indian being lauded as an enviable species of personal adulthood, as among non-sentimental grown-ups like themselves, allegedly unique in circumspection and alive to duties of the real world. So that for instance Indians now being uprooted in the Amazon are admonished to hope only for some rote factory-assembly job in some distant big city, after having been removed from the surroundings of centuries, these now rated as mere indolent-if-idyllic trivia unworthy of people so mature. Big-brother-like being head-shakingly discouraged away from any contemplation of larger things like the fractional salvaging of their traditional way of life: being cautioned—like all primitives allegedly need to be—that those who would urge upon them such delusions—together with a likewise-fractional salvaging of immemorial rain forest—are in fact their real enemies. While the one who proffers the minimum-wage job in some slum is by contrast said to be the Indian’s veritable great white savior: for one thing because the same paragon gives them precious few realistic alternatives. This sort of logic having been centuries in the making, in a stage-call that goes back to the wealthy Criollo elites of Revolutionary Latin America: they who urged mission Indians to take up arms against Spain, all the while their privileged eyes were already contemplating a subsequent division of spoils of the native’s vast holdings, one which would be unprecedented in variety and scale.

            Of course this is vintage Capital Hill “bravery” at its most impressive, a valor that is however little evident in cynical, testy and interminable parliamentary maneuvers, and gallingly-unfair refusals to Democrats of rightful seats at critical committee meetings. Things seen and heard daily on C-Span, in a spirit no doubt carried on less-visibly in numerous purely-private litigations and counter-litigations of these very indefatigable legislators. Or for that matter in their demands for ever-greater salaries, and all the latest yachts, autos, comforts and high-tech trifles that go with them. Tribes being on the contrary counseled to adopt a harried, threadbare existence that these politicians would never even contemplate in their own regard, or that of their wealthiest constituents. Asking the Indian to forego any thought of a just recouping of unfairly-ruined tribal market power—or legal or commercial equities—whether in Arizona or on the Amazon.

            But the story of the Navajo must close ever-busy neo-con mouths, if only for the span of one breath, since it displays in a perfect microcosm all the logical fallacies involved, exposing our “market” system for what it is: a gospel of the final, complete dominion of corporate stock and CEO profits to the destruction of everything human, genuine, durable, or indeed as noted even truly entrepreneurial and productive. While what we get as a reward, on this supposed “road of no return”, is the substandard products, polluted resources and citizen surveillance of the modern-day, anti-life, militaristic/police-state, Marxian-post-communist paradise.

            Bailey and Bailey, from whom I have mostly been quoting, go the length of insisting that Navajo prosperity of the almost 30 years just prior to the Depression was largely illusory because "overgrazing"—that buzzword which would be fixed upon as the ultimate weapon against the stubborn Navajo independence and solvencywas already in progress. (Alas, analogously-employed words like this—"terrorism", "depression" both pathological and economic, "security"—would be used in every possible application to tighten cords of totalitarianism here in the USA for the rest of us as well, in post-thirties-decades until today.) Holding that its most serious effects had remained hidden until the very end of that period, when drought resurfaced and revealed the extent to which the range had been rendered less stubbornly-fertile by overuse (Ibid, p. 182). However from the testimony of the Navajos themselves this seems to be an excessively-bleak evaluation to say the least, in a diffidence corroborated as well by the 1930 recommendations of the first of a series of experts in soil-related matters, a forester named William Zeh. Called in to assess alleged grazing-and-drought-related range damage, his uniformly-mild prescriptions called for such moderate measures as the simple culling of flocks (slaughtering of the sickly), reduction of surplus goats, and education of the young in range management and livestock control.” (David F. Aberle, The Peyote Religion Among the Navajo (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), p. 53). While to the testimony of Zeh must be added an even more compelling evidence against the erosion scare of the 1930s, this as embodied in long-standing range-conservation policies in Middle-Eastern sheep and goat-raising countries. Where on almost identical terrain to that of the American Southwest the simple and obvious expedient of the roping-off of overly-used trails has regularly prevented significant soil deterioration. (I have to confess the lack of a footnote here: the information having been gained first hand from one of the many Arabic-speaking students who attend Arizona State University, in a casual conversation. Of course, the logic of this simple measure is evident upon reflection).

            Hardly suggested by sensible prescriptions of Zeh—nor those similarly-sensible ones of Middle Easterners—was the wholesale invasion of Navajo that was just over the horizon—with its legions of death-dealing “range riders”, its Soil Conservation Service and BIA officials, for the implementation and enforcement of a reduction in livestock whose final figures would approach half a million sheep, goats and horses. It was a reduction which proved a mortal blow to Navajo achievements of a critical economic and motivational self-sufficiency. This despite misleading forecasts regarding things like a latter-day mining industry: ventures which would in fact prove to net no such increases in wealth and overall tribal solvency as were predicted. (A History of the Navajos, p. 235-237).

            The loss of a considerable amount of the topsoil in some of the central states during a violent windstorm in the early 1930’s seems to have been the unlikely occasion—or rather excuse—for this universally-unparalleled stock reduction in the intermountain West. Engineers and agronomists with slide rules and measuring instruments for water tables and grass root lengths suddenly came up with the idea that, helped along by the occurrence of other such winds, Navajo sheep paths would eventually turn into gullies, due to their lack of grass. And that these in turn would eventually produce a creased landscape: presumably evoking in the minds of these experts a nightmare of deep and shadowy canyons much like those of the Badlands of North and South Dakota: these however being the product of thousands of years, as well as of entirely different wind patterns, geology and ecosystem alike (Donald L. Parman, The Navajos and the New Deal. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1976, p. 53). Yet the same author, with an inhuman sort of detachment which so often marks out the educated on these shores, goes on later to write retrospectively that “the need for reduction and the conservation programs seems indisputable. Studies of the reservation grazing capacity after World War II indicate that New Deal estimates were accurate and if anything too liberal.” (Ibid, p. 293). Thus do bureaucrats—and those who study them—seem invariably if unaccountably to come up with the same sorts of conclusions: supporting one another with ever-widening tornadoes of circular logic.

            But those acquainted with the facts, especially among Indians, "have heard the wind blow before"—in what can be made to serve as singularly-neat and indeed “scientific” justifications for myriad open and subtle Indian abuses of the era. Examples of which would fill a whole book full of citations. So that it seems that it is to the Navajos themselves—those who actually experienced the livestock reduction—that we must turn for any accurate appraisal of BIA Commissioner Collier's policies. Sources from which an entirely different picture of the soil and grazing situation of those years immerges: one which it cannot be wise to dismiss simply because no sophisticated devices or mathematical formulae were employed. Since these were a People who had already for centuries proven themselves exceptionally able to understand and handle their own herds and natural environment, and indeed to micro-manage the sum total of their circumstances as well

            “Before the reduction period there was a lot of grass, and I think it was the livestock reduction (itself) that caused our pasture vegetation to be reduced (Italics mine). I still ponder on this, and the vegetation is still scarce to this day.” (Ruth Roessel and Broderick H. Johnson, compilers, Navajo Livestock Reduction: A National Disgrace. Tsaile, Arizona: Navajo Community College Press, 1974, p. 129). On the surface, this statement might suggest to some the idea that this Indian thought that “the livestock drew the rain”: a superstition often attributed to this and similar statements. But I proffer a different and much more sensible explanation in a following page. This Navajo, too, had the advantage of being, like all the others that will presently be quoted, a contemporary of the events surrounding the reduction program. Says one woman in her early nineties who tended flocks at the time: “The Anglos are not telling the truth when they say that the reason for the stock reduction was too much livestock and not enough vegetation to provide for it. There was an abundance of greasewood and other vegetation. During the mid-summers vegetation, like the sun flowers, colored the place. It grew in such abundance that the livestock walked in tunnel-like paths among them before the sheep were reduced.” (italics mine) (Ibid, p. 131).

            Now contrast the foregoing with the account of one of many desk-bound officials overseeing a dictated policy, in one of his reports: “As it was, sparsely distributed water and accompanying saltbrush (shadscale, chamisa, and greasewood) forced people to drive herds long distances: and this increased trampling.” (Klara B. Kelley and Peter M. Whiteley, Navajoland: Family Settlement and Land Use. Tsaile, Arizona: Navajo Community College Press, 1989, p. 95). While from another pro-reduction bureaucratic observer we hear that the goats were the real villains-of-the-piece, promiscuously nibbling here and there, leading the more docile sheep over a much broader range of forage. “Excessive trampling”—held to be potentially catastrophic—the only reality any of these experts seemed to know—was said to result from these tiny-hooved wanderings to and fro—yet I could find no Navajo contemporaries who supported such an assertion. And of course if grass remained as abundant as the interviews suggest, it would seem rather unlikely for significant erosion to result from mere sheep paths. Furthermore, it seems part of nature’s plan that the goats would lead the sheep over a wide range—if they indeed did so—and thus not crop down too much grass in any one area. This locally-concentrated loss of vegetation being definitional to the peculiar range deterioration that was claimed to be taking place.

            Rather obviously, in all these contradictions, do we see in un-called-for, radical government stock-reduction policies that official American penchant—both at home and in places like Iraq—for deciding upon things beforehand—and then looking for some far-fetched excuse to put greedy or Hegelian-ideological, pre-conceived decisions into effect. Thus the military defeat of Iraq had been opted-for several years in advance of the latest war, and the flimsiest of pretext easily tripped an already-spring-loaded mobilization mechanism: the sort of thing for which others more blunt than I have had other names in more honest times. In the case before us the undermining of the traditional Navajo way of life having been the unvarying aim of long-standing government policy, a goal for which the destruction of the sheep-herding industry was critical, and according to the same ironclad, a-priori policy mechanisms easily-enough encompassed on the most factually-unjustifiable of grounds.

            There were indeed several Navajo statements to the effect that the drought of the times was the cause of the erosion, but I found only one lone and vague statement by a Navajo in all my reading that might by some stretch of the imagination be thought to imply that “continued grazing would have brought rain”. A superstitious-sounding construction that was nonetheless put into the mouths of many-a Navajo by stock-reduction protagonists of the times. Not even a single medicine man is quoted as having made anything like such a magical-sounding assertion, the "source" being invariably some unnamed Navajo (Navajo Livestock Reduction: a National Disgrace, p. 40, 41). But on the other hand the Navajos did blame the plentiful wild horses for an appreciable share of the poor grazing conditions. “the wild ones were useless, grazing on the grass all the time—grass that should be reserved for sheep. Those wild horses also took up a lot of water”. (Ibid, p. 55). Two pivotal, drought-preventive resources on the New Mexico mesas and in the Arizona canyons of the Tribe being thus squandered by these animals, and yet in my reading I didn’t see a single mention anywhere of a government reduction in their regard. Mavericks to whom the people at the Bureau, like most Americans of the times, were probably more than a little romantically attached, no doubt under the influence of contemporary, highly-popular and highly-fanciful Zane Gray Western novels: much as those of Tom Clancy no doubt subliminally spurred the recent American global pre-emptive aggressions. An author who appears now to be sincerely horrified and repentant for his erstwhile flights-of-fancy.

            But in an attempt to explain the first Navajo statement cited, in which the disappearance of abundant forage is linked to the absence of the herds of sheep, it is interesting that grazing and the dung fertilizer it produces have made grass grow in a place that had for a century been given up in despair: namely on mine tailings. For one sees just that on the processed ore remnants of the old Inspiration Mine between Globe and Miami, Arizona. Here sulphuric-acid-loaded ore-dumpings that used to burn the eye with any strong wind—not really a soil at all—are now covered with vegetation—coming thereby to increasingly resemble the terrain on the surrounding foothills of the Pinal Mountains. While furthermore the area of Arizona there at about 3000 feet is even drier than that of the New Mexico plateau at 6000 and more. This transformation was effected however not by the arcane labors of teams of government scientists but by the grazing of herds of cattle. While something further—known perhaps only to reputedly-unsophisticated Croatian peasants and their children, like myself, or to supposedly-equally-ignorant Navajo herdsmen—is that sheep dung is the richest fertilizer on earth, with the possible exception of guano. Not only encouraging vegetation but even being therapeutic to worm-infested fruit trees, with these needing only to be manured at the roots for a couple of seasons in order to produce fruit so healthy that it has commonly been known to actually repel larva-bearing insects.

            Of course, John Collier had no time for this kind of folk agriculture, being unfortunately during his long crusade on behalf of the Navajo a loyal believer in a supposedly-scientific methodology ill suited to the Navajo psychology and world view, and too often as well to the practical situation at hand. An approach resembling in its consequences the modern genetically-altered potato: which blows up when boiled, sticks to the pan when fried, but for all that cooks into a handy mush that readily forms into mass-produced French fries for a highly-"rational" global market. The only form that the multinational corporation has much use for, this potato is a perfect analog for what was being done to the Navajo and his way of life, being robbed of its integrity and adaptability, reduced to a characterless, formless mass. For the purposes of a largely-destructive, runaway, artificially-extruded economic and financial system. Yet the fact that the standard pedantic skepticism about Indian attitudes and livestock practices nicely serve bureaucratic entrenchment—and produces a prostrate Tribe as a dependable source of expanded government agency employment—and of scholarly grants-in-aid for bright young Anglo students—all this was no-doubt if ironically-enough outside the clearly-upright motivations of Collier, the contemporary Indian Bureau chief. A public servant whose devotion to the cause of the Navajo had him on a constant whistle-stop tour of speeches and lectures on behalf of boundary line extension, cultural and political self-determination, and other vital issues of native advocacy. On most of which he was perfectly sensitive and accurate in his position. (The Navajos and the New Deal, p. 29-31; also Address by Hon. John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, before the meeting of the southwest district of Kiwanis International at Clovis, N.M., titled, “The Indians and the Government in the Southwest”. Source: Arizona Southwest reading room, Hayden Library, Arizona State University, where other cited manuscripts are to be found. This speech shows his heartfelt dedication as well as some of his illusions and misconceptions.) He and his colleagues indeed, as well as Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona, exerting efforts which bore fruit in the final consolidation of Navajo lands against the intrusions of surrounding Mexican and Anglo-American cattle and sheep ranching interests (The Navajos and the New Deal, p. 132-36). While such lone voices as that of Barry Goldwater would later be added to these noble predecessors. But one would hope that there will someday be Indian claims commissions in compensation for self-interested, petty and cruel depredations committed by others less well motivated, in this tragic saga of Navajo livestock reduction. As well as for the stubborn insistence of even men like Collier that the Anglo way with land use and other critical matters is invariably better and “more scientific” than those of native peoples: simply because these are organic and require no radical revamp or destruction of industrial or agricultural platforms found in the natural world.

            Continuing the last Navajo quote (same page), the Navajo interviewee goes on to say that “all this (the reduction) is due to the lack of precipitation from above. Maybe they reduced that, too.” Perhaps this is one of the much-touted purported instances of Navajo naturalistic pantheism, of which the bulk of the tribe was of course duly accused. A statement by a shrewd-sounding nonagenarian which however is more accurately perceived as a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of a notorious bureaucratic sense of omnipotence.

            Suddenly, in the next year after William Zeh’s modest proposal for improved livestock methods and the culling of flocks, the director of irrigation of the Indian Services was calling for the elimination of 900,000 sheep and goats as well as the removal of large numbers of Navajos themselves to unused portions of other reservations in Arizona. Here, at last, it appeared that the Anglo and Mexican herding and other interests would have a sheep-shearing all of their own kind, in a long-awaited revenge of mammoth proportions, getting rid of both the hated Churro sheep and the Navajo that herded them. Even Senate hearings on the conditions on Navajo contained no hint of the consideration of such a drastic move (The Peyote Religion Among the Navajo, p. 53-54), so that it has all the appearances of a typical last-minute, pressure-group/bureaucrat-driven, under-the-table subterfuge: cousins-to-which are carried on under the Bush Congress/White House daily and with perfect impunity, indeed with a kind of band-wagon mood of festivity. Such last-minute policy-bugle-calls as had already innumerable times presaged a savage toll upon many and various Indian tribes during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: a tiresomely-repetitive sequence over which, shortly-thereafter, newly-abundant sympathizers could safely wring their hands, in photogenic bouts of empathetic commiseration. Of course after the damage had already been irretrievably done.

            Thankfully this figure was never even approximated, and the People never transported to alien reservations, in the years between the first reduction in 1933 and the last and least drastic in 1941. But still there were eliminated—mostly slaughtered—more than 500,000 sheep-units of livestock—a measurement in which other kinds of stock are counted according to how much forage and water they consume in comparison to sheep. No one is really very certain about the figures during a program that, similarly to a like-motivated, déjà vu similar slaughter of the buffalo some seventy year before, operated in a more or less constant state of confusion. (The Navajos and the New Deal, p. 56-57). A slaughter-bent free-for-all: government range-riders re-enacting in more ways than one grizzly scenes of previous-century dealings with most of the tribes, if perpetrated this time not so much upon human persons as upon their hopes and dreams.

            In another epic example of BIA and associated-agency mismanagement, the intended policy of protecting poorer, subsistence-herding families from too great a loss of their livestock during all of the reductions turned out to be yet another empty letter, for direct orders of Collier that no herd was to be reduced to under 100—and later even larger minimum figures—were consistently and even systematically ignored (Ibid, p. 49). Subsistence-level tribesmen, whose dependency upon their herds was extreme, were destined to find that it was the will of the richer herders that would prevail: insisting as they did on reduction by the same percentage for all herds. A policy manipulation which the prominent tribesmen were able to effect for all of the phases of the herd reduction, except for the last in ‘4l. Such reduced, uniform rates actually allowed them in many cases to simply cull their more or less useless animals and thus increase their own market yields, while the poor shepherd with a subsistence herd was forced to cut into his very livelihood.

            Thus too in all of this do we see a crowning facet of capitalism, ever advocated, openly or by default, within the maze of American bureaucracy: the favoring of the already-well-to-do. That which has about it a distinct quality of anarchy, especially when we consider the only valid purpose of law and orderly human association: namely the achievement of a substantial pooling of the peculiar strengths of every constituency, in a safety-net for all concerned. So that as they used to say in Croatia "the hands wash each other and they both wash the face"; the head or heart existing not for itself alone but also for the sake of the hand or little toe, else all perish together. That true corporate-political logic whose force has been revealed to us so many times in history: uncovering to us in stark, sanguinary colors the lie hidden in the laissez-faire jingle for all to ruefully regard. 

            Although I was unable to find substantial proof in my readings, it seems likely that these highly-privileged large-scale herders were mostly members of the “mixed-blooded” and “returning students” groups who in all tribes during the early-to-mid twentieth century were granted preferential treatment in all respects. The “student” constituency being formed at government boarding schools: academies of forced cultural assimilation, while the overwhelming advantages of these groups has been borne out innumerable times, more recently for instance among the Sioux at Pine Ridge in a bloody confrontational parting-of-ways during the 1970s between “traditionalists” and assimilationists. “Americanized” Indians there as elsewhere ever being able to improve their circumstances at the expense of old-school tribal brothers, and this in every imaginable way. Significantly, it was with the support of this predominating group that J.C. Morgan—the wealthy Navajo king-maker of early-to-mid-century—was able to carry the day so much of the time in his intrigues against Collier and his policies—most of which as noted were actually quite prudent and favorable to the Indians. Morgan having even blocked moves toward reservation boundary extension, this with the help of the above-mentioned notoriously anti-Navajo state senator Chavez of New Mexico (Ibid, p. 56-57, 152-153). But these were the kinds of turn-coats that American Indian policy had from the beginning looked to as collaborators with whom to do business, instituting in the process the dictatorial Indian chief: an unheard-of anomaly amid that indigenous democracy which has typically been fundamental to indigenous peoples from time immemorial.

            As noted, one of the main aims of Collier’s livestock reduction was the extension of other breeds into the native Navajo stock: but this was a transformation which would ultimately cancel out centuries of palpable tribal progress (Union Valley Sheep, Black Earth, WI 53515. http://www.navajo-churros.com/carelamb.htm). As first seen in scattered acquisitions of sheep that proved to be a major turning point in their history, transforming the Dineh from a mostly nomadic, raiding society into one more oriented to permanent settlements and agricultural life than it had ever been before (Book Review of work by Kate Peck Kent, Navajo Weaving: Three Centuries of Change. The American Indian Quarterly, vol. 19, no. 1). So that the stock-breeding innovations introduced by Collier and others—and even more the senseless forced-slaughter of that upon which the Navajo economy and way of life most depended—amounted to the breaking of a chain that was to prove fatal to its hitherto remarkable integrity. As gone now to these dwellers of desert and high mesa was an ideal subsistence animal, one which had gone with them to rugged pasturelands in severe weather conditions in which it thrived, proving itself a friend and companion by its remarkably sweet and cooperative disposition, and even taking an important place in their religious life (Ruth Roessel and Broderick H. Johnson, compilers, Navajo Livestock Reduction: A National Disgrace. Tsaile, Arizona: Navajo Community College Press, 1989, p. 122. Also, Union Valley Sheep, Black Earth, WI 53515 online as in 39 above). It had provided them an incomparably tasty meat and hides for various essential uses, including warm clothing against the New Mexico wind, singularly cold and penetrating as it is on those often-frozen high plateaus. The goats provided them too with their favorite source of milk and cheese; while the churro, again, also gave them the unique wool for hand-weaving, which besides being so straight and long was almost entirely free of the grease found in other breeds. Their lack of these good qualities being that which made other sorts of wool perform poorly by comparison, in woven articles of choice. (The Navajos and the New Deal, p. 180).

            But of course to modern capitalism this is all "unfair competition": the unforgivable sin of that system being to allow an indigenous industry to prosper in the midst of a distinct nationality, this combination being the very nemesis of its defining amorphous socioeconomic leveling operations. Basically the same thing that Orwell wrote of in his novels: although he and those of his and later times seem to have thought this gray gulag would come to us by way of the more-candid collectivism of socialism and communism.

            In confirmation of the misgivings of the broken-hearted herdsmen and their families—who wept openly as they witnessed the massive shooting or starving of animals who had become almost family members to them (Ibid, p. 64-65)—the production of industrial wools and feeder lambs soon proved to require economies of scale far beyond the limited range of the Navajo herder: thus basically hustling him out of the way for a U.S. Government preferred corporate agriculture to take charge, to make tractable subsistence-wage-earners out of what had once been a proud and independent tribe. Essentially driving the Navajo out of herding as a commercial enterprise, under terms which had seemed so hopeful to a starry-eyed John Collier. While much the same economic phenomenon would for that matter and likewise drive out the Wisconsin family dairy farm, typically among German, Slovenian and Croatian communities with distinct, culturally-interwoven ways of life, to be replaced by the 5000 cow "milk factory". Equally illusory, too and as suggested above, have been more recent big dreams—of course correctly, antiseptically capitalistic in their scale economies—of sources of income for the Tribe—like oil, much touted during the 50’s through the 70’s: a highly erratic industry in the first place, with today's more-typical per-barrel prices tailor-made for a life of popular poverty and prostration, from Saudi Arabia to Mexico. Or mining, which according to the vagaries of the market is periodically curtailed across the globe, and in which automated methods have kept employment opportunities to a minimum, more-recently even in boom periods. While as suggested much-anticipated royalties from either source have not been sufficient to alleviate a grinding penury on the Navajo reservation, among the most severe in the nation. This in sharp contrast to the truly phenomenal Tribal prosperity of the early-twentieth-century.

            It had to a degree been the hoped-for but unrealized revenues from these modern industries that had led the Navajo—broken by now to taking his cue from Anglo policy-makers rather than from his own ingenuity and naturally-shrewd business sense—to diminish his herding and craft activities to the point at which they came to account for only a percentage point or two of his income. Most of these enterprises having of course been rendered much less promising than they had been before the drastic 1930s change in livestock composition: both Churro-stock and market-share, for one thing, having been irretrievably lost. And from which low level these enterprises are presently making only the most problematical and as yet scarcely-measurably of recoveries. This to a degree by way of the reintroduction of the Churro, uncannily survived in the occasional remote village. And some healthy sires even having been preserved during intervening generations by Anglos in far-away places, who had a keener eye than Collier for a winning contender (A History of the Navajos: the Reservation Years, p. 249-50, also: Dan Egan, Navajo Weaving Their Past Into Their Future, The Salt Lake Tribune, at www.sltrib.com/1998/may/05241998/utah/35069.htm).

            The end result of the policies of Collier and others in diverting the Navajos from their traditional forms of weaving and livestock raising, then, can be seen in a reservation economy which for the first time in tribal history appears to be permanently blighted and crippled, producing the occasional and indeed inevitable alcoholic and other product of human misery inseparable from such economic circumstances. Intrinsically-vulnerable human beings whom abundant harshly-opinionated visitors—in stop-offs at Gallup and elsewhere—can point to with open indignation, little aware of the scenes of glowing prosperity and self-reliant enterprise that had grace the same streets in earlier decades. Victims of circumstances who can then be lucratively studied by bright eyed graduates on anthropological grants-in-aid. While Navajo unemployment with remarkable persistence typically-enough hovers at around 50% (article, “Navajo Weaving Their Past into Their Future”), all largely because in the view of men like Collier a subsistence society was and is an unconscionable anachronism, a kind of American cultural sacrilege. But they would have done far better to trust to the proven adaptability of the Dineh in their economic instincts and the equally creative, productive, gradualistically-adaptive institutions they have already generated. Having early-on promised to become a stronger and stronger, but always distinct, part of the greater American milieu.

            In conclusion, it is obvious to me that there is a seismic fault somewhere in the modern capitalist philosophy—of which the United States is unfortunately the self-confessed and universally-acknowledged chief proponent—when it comes to dealing with fundamentally irreducible cultural and ethnic phenomena. As John Collier so rightly held, “a people and their culture are synonymous and the assimilation of Indians into white life (means), in effect, the end of their existence” (The Navajos and the New Deal, p. 30). And yet, Yale-educated though he was, he remained fundamentally unequipped to translate his deeply-held convictions into realistic policies, such as would recognize in practical terms what he grasped so well in abstract formulae. But he was far from being an exception.

            I myself believe that the fundamental problem with the whole American approach to policy or planning matters—which, once born here, it is difficult to escape no matter how educated one becomes—is a kind of sterile, overbearing sense of mission, inherited originally from Puritan founders. The idea that we must change the way the whole world does things: running the gamut of everything great or small, intimate or pedestrian. This indigenous arrogance is indeed even a sort of tribalism all its own strange sort, and far more menacing than any of the many that Americans have systematically uprooted across the continent. This American determinism being that which accounts for Uncle Sam’s solutions to other people’s problems, while his own—which dwarf many of the latter—go begging a remedy. Prescriptions and hasty implementations that fail in the majority of cases to be anything but abstract and academic, unworkable on the practical plane, inapplicable to the case at hand. It makes Americans ever ready to “show others the way” in things they themselves have however been doing for a long time and with which we are only theoretically if at all acquainted. While in the meantime those American domestic problems which grow more critical each year are often of a sort which Navajos and Croatian peasants were never so poorly trained and motivated—nor ideologically pre-possessed—as to even encounter.

            The Colonial Puritans were intensely conscious of being the originators of a kind of "model society", imbued with all the values they knew and believed to be so right and just, but perhaps after centuries of dominating and at times destroying whole peoples, allegedly “for their own good”, “a new generation of Americans”, to use John Kennedy’s magnificent phrase, can at last, through the charred object-lessons of these very victims of their misdirected idealism—that which can easily become a clever veil for cupidity—learn some of the fundamental lessons of life and human interaction that the Puritans got all wrong.

            That there was already a mold ready to hand into which to pour American Indian policy, and that it was deliberately ignored and contradicted, to our own and the Indian’s grief, and in every conceivable way: these are facts of history. That mold had been eminently fashioned at the hands of the Jesuits of New France and of their Belgian spiritual descendant, Father DeSmet in the Northwestern United States. As well as by Catholic missionaries of several Orders: hundreds of whom laid down their lives on the Mexican-American borderlands alone (Bolton, Herbert E., The Spanish Borderlands. New Haven: Yale U. Press, 1921). It is largely because of the missionaries' uniquely just, constructive and compassionate approach that Indian blood is a major element among many groups in present-day Quebec and Canada, as well as being the shared genetic base to the vast majority of the people south of the border. All in stark contrast to its relative absence, pure or mixed, in the United States. That the sons of the Puritans could learn from the Jesuits was of course unthinkable, and so was the ruin of their Indian policy a foregone conclusion.

            What DeSmet envisioned, among the Bitterroot mountains of Montana, was something resembling the Jesuit “Reductions” of Latin America of the eighteenth century, these being volubly praised by even so anti-Catholic a critic as Voltaire. Complex, finely tuned socio-economic cultivars—modern showpieces of the ancient Catholic political doctrine of Distributism—their like had actually been seen historically across Europe throughout the Medieval period in royal, noble and ecclesiastical "burghs", these often planted amid remote forest and heath very much after the manner of the reductions of Latin America. Settlements which contained self rule, cultural vitality and economic independence/interdependence in a single organic structure, and which DeSmet and his colleagues attempted to reproduce in embryonic forms among the Flatheads and other tribes of the Northwest. Indians he worked among in his incredible travels and labors. Quoting another Jesuit, “DeSmet’s goal was to avoid forcing European Christianity onto already religious peoples. Instead, he planned an “accommodation” of Indian religious ideals with those of Christianity, to form unique Indian Christianities. That which has really been the approach of genuine Christian missionaries throughout the ages. To DeSmet the tragedy was that the forces that controlled federal Indian policy were unconcerned about Indian rights, cultures, or even personal survival.” (John S. Killoren, S.J., Come Blackrobe, vol. 9 of The Indian Historian, the American Indian Historical Society). This in a campaign of callous, sometimes murderous neglect, one closely paralleled by the great drive of American journalism in the second half of the 19th century toward the “annihilation of the aboriginals”. A war of words which was quickly seconded by one of deeds in wholesale American policy and especially-conspicuous examples of murderous barbarity alike: much as in the case of the present-day American sanguinary, “big stick” militarism, driven by a similarly-fanatical yellow-journalistic media. With a perfectly false and fabricated idea of both nationality and patriotism taking the prize among destructive catalysts of epic proportions. While by contrast the fact that native populations diminished drastically during the first century of Spanish and Portuguese colonialism is acknowledged by the occasional honest and informed American historian as having been the result of a lack of anti-bodies to European diseases, and not of a policy of extermination, which never existed in any of the colonial efforts of Catholic nations (John R. Jisher, The Economic Aspects of Spanish Imperialism in America, 1492-1810. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 1997, p. 31-32).

            But as indicated, instead of the work of the Catholic missions on the NW frontier being studied and imitated—to learn the lessons they so abundantly had to offer—all but one of these institutions, some of them personally founded by Father DeSmet, were confiscated under the Grant administration and given over to Protestant ministers, with their typically assimilationist visions. (Apologies that this fact was gleaned from somewhere unknown, probably one of Bolton’s books, but I wasn’t able to relocate the passage in recent attempts). So that it has been through the eyes of people remarkably like the Puritans—who exercised a variety of interventionism all of its own kind—despite the passage of many years and a slackening of certain beliefs and practices—that American Indian policy has continued for the most part, even now, to be formulated.   

            If very recent years have seen a change it has mostly been in the direction of allowing the Indian to "fend for himself": this under the above-noted brave new “ad hoc”, neo-con economics of several recent administrations in their regard. An independence urged upon peoples fatally crippled both culturally and economically, according to the manner detailed above. A policy brave because it is only the Indian who will suffer the consequences. While similarly in reading the works of men like Deloria and Iverson, we learn as well that the Indian is receiving his full freedom to pursue beliefs and religious practices that his now-distant ancestors once observed. In conjunction with which he is likewise encouraged, openly or by implication, to hold in contempt past and present efforts of Christianity to minister to him: an attitude inculcated as well by an educational establishment that has for a long time now been more pagan than the Indian ever was. In this ongoing process it is implied that all efforts of Christians, especially those of Catholics, have been assimilationist in character: indeed that Catholics, especially the Spanish colonials, have committed the biggest destructive enormities in regard to native American life and culture. But this student of the subject is one, at least, that will not allow this accusation to go unchallenged: however subtly or crassly it is introduced, whether in lecture, printed word, or cinema-graphic production.